heirloom recipe

Mississippi Mud Potatoes

Bacon? Check. Cheese? Check. Tons of flavor? Absolutely. See, these are the easiest potatoes I think I’ve ever made, and they’re a hit with everyone. I mean, who doesn’t love cheese and bacon?

One of the many recipes that came from the family recipe box, this handwritten recipe with an unknown source simply stated “They’re named for the famous river because they’re LONG on taste and MIGHTY good!” Well, they didn’t disappoint, anyway!

Start with some ingredients you may already have– 8 to 10 cups of potatoes, diced, 1 cup of Mayonnaise (the real deal, not salad dressing), about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, a 16 ounce block of cheddar, diced, 1/2 a cup of green onions, chopped, and a package of bacon. You can add half a cup of olives if you’d like to, but why ruin perfectly good potatoes? (Unless you’re an olive fan, in which case, you probably don’t see that as ruining them).

Start by slicing your bacon into pieces. Don’t look at me with that shocked face that I get every time someone sees me do this… you can TOTALLY bacon your bits instead of bitting your bacon. This method gets a lot less grease on your hands because there’s no tearing it up post-fry… if you do the cutting first, your bacon will be in perfect bite sized bits when you’re done. I promise. Just trust me– cutting bacon is NOT bacon blasphemy, no matter what anyone tells you.

Put that in a pan and cook it, trying not to eat too much bacon as the smell fills the air. Seriously, bacon is so hard to resist. That’s why there is bacon everything. While the bacon cooks, start peeling and dicing your potatoes, dicing your cheese, and chopping your green onions.

Delicious! Finish getting your other ingredients chopped and ready.

Place your potatoes in a 9×13 pan.

Spoon the mayonnaise onto the potatoes evenly. This will make stirring them easier. The mayo will add flavor, plus it will help those potatoes get extra tender.

Stir the potatoes to combine evenly with the mayonnaise.

Stir in the diced green onions and cheese. Make sure that there is some intermixed with the potatoes, with more topping the potatoes.

Sprinkle that generously with bacon. If you’re going to add some olives, now is the time to do that, as well.

Bake for an hour and a half, or until the potatoes are tender, in a 325 degree oven.

Enjoy that bubbly, cheesy, bacon-y side dish. You could even add in some hamburger meat or chicken and make it a main dish, if you wanted to.

This is so easy and a great thing to take to a potluck or perfect for Easter Dinner this year!

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Memories of My Grandfather (With Oatmeal Raisin Bar Recipe)

Please keep reading for a very special recipe from my Grandfather’s collection.

Cholangiocarcinoma. That’s… not an easy word to say, to spell, but once it becomes a part of your life, it’s a word you can’t forget. I like to know my grandfather as someone who wasn’t defined by the cancer that eventually took his life. But truly, I remember so many things before the cancer was a part of his life. Today would have been my grandfather’s birthday.

For a short time in my youngest years, my mother and I lived with my grandparents. I am often told the story of a time when I was very little, on Christmas Eve. I wouldn’t go to sleep at all, wanting to stay up. Then finally, out my grandparents’ house window, someone pointed out the lights from the radio towers nearby… flashing red lights, akin to Rudolph’s nose. I got so excited, knowing Santa was near, and knowing he wouldn’t visit if I was awake, I rushed to bed. I was asleep within minutes.

As a young girl, I had a variety of makeup brushes to play with at my grandparents’ house. I’d sit there for hours looking in the mirror putting on “MakeMuck.” My grandfather was a hairdresser for most of his life, and he formed a lasting bond with all of his regular customers. It seems he continued those friendships with many of them even after his retirement.

My grandfather had a passion for horses. A World Champion in the Missouri Foxtrotters Show circuit, and a Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association Hall of Fame Inductee, he truly loved horses with all of his heart. Because of that, at a young age, I did the whole Stick Horse Circuit, riding around a stick with a stuffed-animal style horse head in the arena. I never got into his passion for horses, but his love of them meant the boot closet in the old house always smelled like worn leather and, others say, manure. When I close my eyes, I can picture the smell of the boot closet, bringing back memories of my grandfather coming in from doing chores.

One of my earliest memories in life was a memory of my grandfather. I had read The Foot Book a million times, listened to it a million more, so when I’d sit and read it, no one would believe that I was really, truly reading it.

I changed everyone’s minds when I crawled up into my granddad’s lap, as he sat in his chair, and started reading that day’s paper. There’s no way I could have memorized it– it was the edition from that day. The things I was reading had been unread by others in the room, and it was clear that I really did know how to read.

When my grandfather was ill, and we’d go down to visit, I loved that we were able to bond over episodes of Jeopardy. He always told me I should go on the show– that I knew so many of the answers. In reality, once there, I’d choke and never get one right. I’d rather be a good couch player.

February is Cholangiocarcinoma awareness month. Cholangiocarcinoma is very rare. It’s not something you expect to take you, especially so quickly. This cancer is rare, arising from tissue in the bile duct. Only about 5% of Cholangiocarcinoma cases are inside the liver, the way my grandfather’s cancer was. There’s a very small chance that people diagnosed with Cholangiocarcinoma will survive longer than 5 years, and in fact, because it’s caught so late, even 6 months is a long survival rate.

However, The Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation is working very hard to find a cure by promoting collaboration, understanding research, and education about Cholangiocarcinoma. You can help them achieve this mission by donating.

When my grandfather passed, he left me the recipes and cookbooks, many of them old family favorites, handwritten on scraps of paper or pulled from newspapers. These incredible recipes are a huge part of my heritage. One special treasured recipe that he loved, that everyone seemed to love, was the recipe for Oatmeal Raisin Bars that my grandfather’s mother would make when he was younger.

With a flaky, buttery crust and crumble top, and a rich raisin filling, these bars are spot-on and perfect for bake sales, potlucks, or even just enjoying on a Sunday afternoon.

You’ll begin by taking 1 cup of raisins, 1/2 a cup of water, and 1/4 cup of granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Right now, you can see all of the little wrinkles on the raisins, and the clarity of the water.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer as you stir constantly, mashing the raisins a bit with a fork. The raisins will get plump, losing some of their wrinkles, and the water will start to disappear, the water darkening into a syrup. You will want to cook them until there is nearly no liquid left. Set the raisins aside to finish soaking up liquid.

In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups instant oats, 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of packed brown sugar, 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. This will make the start of your crust.

Add in 1/3 cup of melted butter and 1 egg white to create a course crusty dough.

Press half of the crust into a greased pan, making sure it’s well-packed and sturdy.

Spread the raisin mixture evenly over the bottom crust. This will bake nicely in to create a sweet filling.

Press the other half of the crust mixture gently over the raisins. You’ll want to bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned. Cool the bars for a minimum of 1 hour in the pan on a cooling rack before slicing.

Grandma Sybil’s Banana Bread

Some recipes are worth a sore wrist from stirring. Some are worth doing the old-fashioned way. And I’ve found that, even though there are a million and one ways that you can be creative with food, it’s good to have some staples in your recipe collection that are tried-and-true. This banana bread meets all of those requirements.

I first encountered this recipe in the recipe boxes I inherited from my grandfather. A nondescript recipe handwritten on a stained and tattered card, it held a lot of promise, and I kept saying “I’ll make this sometime when I have bananas that need to be used before they turn.” However, when I finally got around to making the bread, I realized it was a recipe worth leaving on top of the stack. It’s a favorite in my home, and I’m certain it’ll be a favorite in yours.

Because this recipe has to cool overnight for easiest slicing, it’s a great bread to make, cool while you sleep, and slice for breakfast the next morning. And, it’s easy enough that you can make it any night of the week.

The recipe starts with sifting together 2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt into one bowl.

In a small liquid measuring cup, you’ll want to put a tablespoon of vinegar, then fill it to 1/2 cup with milk. Set this aside for a few minutes. If you’d rather use buttermilk in place of the vinegar-milk mixture, you can– they’re essentially the same thing.

In a second bowl, cream 1/2 cup shortening, then slowly add 1 cup of sugar. To this, you’ll add two eggs, one at a time, beating until light and fluffy after each.

Before you even start the recipe, it helps to bring eggs to room temperature. See, chilled eggs didn’t used to be an issue. Farm fresh eggs are shelf-stable, and don’t need to be refrigerated. Many farm-fresh eggs are stored at room temperature from the time you get them. In the UK, even store-bought eggs are kept unrefrigerated, completely shelf-stable. The difference between the UK and the US is that in the UK, ALL hens are required to be vaccinated for salmonella. However, in the United States, vaccinating hens is a choice– not a requirement. That’s why store-bought eggs in the US are suggested to be refrigerated. Additionally, in the United States, we’re serious about egg washing– which means in addition to washing off the dirt and grime from the freshly laid eggs, we’re also removing that barrier that helps prevent yucky stuff from getting into the eggs. Unfortunately, sometimes in cleaning, we add more dirt. It happens. Bringing them up to room temperature before baking, however, is totally safe.

So, you have a light and fluffy shortening-egg-sugar mixture. You also have a flour mixture, and a milk mixture. Finally, you’re going to make one last addition in a separate measuring cup– 1 cup of mashed bananas. It took 3 very ripe bananas to make a cup.

In small amounts, and alternating between them, add the flour mixture, the milk mixture, and the banana mixture, whisking/stirring after each addition as it continues to thicken from the flour. While I’m positive you could use a Kitchen-Aid or hand mixer, if Grandma Sybil was mixing by hand, so was I. I wanted to try this recipe as authentically as possible– making it just as she did.

Turn the batter into a greased bread tin, and bake for 60-70 minutes. Mine was done after 65 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Remove the bread from the pan, cooling overnight, or at least for several hours, before slicing.

You can, of course, add chopped walnuts to your bread. I chose not to, since my family has enough nuts in it that adding more seemed counter-intuitive.

This bread is really good microwaved for another 10-20 seconds and spread with a little bit of fresh butter.

Once you try it, you’ll realize that it’s a staple recipe, worthy of a hand-written index card in your collection. Hopefully, over time, your copy will become as well-worn and loved as mine, covered in splatters and stains.

The recipe, as Sybil wrote it:

Banana Bread

2 cups sifted all purpose flour, 1 tsp soda, 1 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening, 1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 tbl (tablespoon) vinegar plus milk to make 1/2 cup
Broken pecans or walnuts (optional)

Method:

Sift together flour, soda, and salt. Cream shortening, blend in sugar. Add eggs one at a time and beat until fluffy. Add flour mixture alternately with bananas and liquid, beating after each addition. Turn into greased bread tin and bake 60 minutes to 70 minutes or until done at 350. Remove from pan and cool several hours or overnight before slicing. Nuts can be added last.

 

Do you have a favorite old family recipe? Don’t forget, if you love this recipe, or hope to try it, you can pin it on Pinterest, or share it on Facebook to save it to your profile!