When I was in the Hoosier state for the holidays I found a new item on my mother’s shelf of kitchen knick-knacks: My grandmother’s old recipe box. She’s in a nursing home now and stopped cooking many years ago, but back in the day no one could match her. And I know — we all think that about our grandmothers. Nostalgia sets our memories even better than eggs set a cake.
So what was in the recipe box? Mostly baked goods: Desserts like cookies, pies and cakes, and some heartier main courses like the hash brown casserole I’ve set out below.
There were also plenty of recipes for jams, pickles and other home-canned goods. My grandma had seven kids to take care of, plus a small farm to look after and a job, so a lot of the recipes are five ingredients or less, or are quick-and-dirty substitutes for more complicated dishes. Many of the recipes are hand written, but she also clipped a lot from magazines and newspapers. I actually found the classic Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe clipped from two different boxes — it seems she saved one for quick reference, forgot about that one, and then clipped one from another box a few years later
Hash brown casserole
This might be the most Midwestern dish ever. It even includes Velveeta, which I was told by one East Coast friend just screams “Midwestern mom.” Well, I said, I was raised by a Midwestern mom — that’s why I always have a 2-pound block of Velveeta in my refrigerator. And needless to say, don’t even think about making this if you are on a diet.
2 lb. hash browns
1 stick butter
1 can cream of chicken soup (I think that’s what it says.)
8 oz. sour cream
1 lb. Velveeta
Optional cornflake crust:
1 c. crushed cornflakes (measure after crushed)
3 tbsp. butter
Put the hash browns in a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Melt the butter, cheese, sour cream and soup together and pour over the hash browns. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, then cover with the cornflake crust. Cornflakes are omitted from the original ingredients list and since I otherwise wouldn’t eat them, I left them off. The top is browned and crispy enough without them, in my opinion. Bake 15 minutes more after adding the crust (keep in 1 hour total if you don’t do the crust).