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Stories and Stovies

Charlotte's Easy Baked Beans

I'm beginning to see that many of my recipes seem to have the concept "easy" in them!

Anyhow, to the baked beans. My favorites are S&H Boston Baked - you just open the can and heat them up. But Daddy, or John if this is a formal type cook book, really liked me to be a good cook. So I would take his favorite bean, Campbell's Pork and, and open the can into an oven proof casserole. I would add brown sugar, ketchup, sometimes molasses or pancake syrup, the ever present onions, and mustard and put a couple of slices of bacon on top. This would bake up with the chicken or the meatloaf type dishes that he enjoyed, and there we had another nice supper with baked or mashed potatoes.

Charlotte's Leftover Cheesy Potatoes

Daddy would like when I would take leftover potatoes, roll them up in grated parmesan cheese, and then put them on a cookie sheet to bake in a 350-400 degree oven until nice and crispy and then put under the broiler until they get a little brown. They made a good addition to the leftovers from the night before.

If you feel like going to cholesterol heaven, you can coat the potatoes in cracker crumbs and fry up in a little oil in a shallow pan. John liked that, too.

Hallowe'en Mashed Potatoes from Scotland

This was always fun at Hallowe'en in Scotland. In addition to bobbing for apples we would also eat mashed turnips and mashed potatoes. The potatoes were special because my Granny would save up little inexpensive silver colored charms like those that are on bracelets and silver threepenny (we would pronounce it "thrupenny" pieces and wrap them in wax paper and stir into the potatoes - we didn't cream them, they were boiled and mashed and buttered. And, while we were eating them we'd roll these potatoes around on our tongues trying to find that paper with the money in it - the charms were nice, but the money was better! I suppose it sounds pretty dangerous to civilized American sensitivities -but those were the best potatoes I ate all year long and I think I looked forward to Hallowe'en for that mashed and buttered vegetable supper I knew my Granny had waiting for me.

Charlotte's Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Peel and pick the eyes out of two potatoes for every person you plan to serve plus, as always, enough for another person - because you never know when Elijah will show up. (Read your Bible or ask a Jewish friend to explain this.)

A little thought here - it's a better idea to put your potatoes out in the garbage and not flush them down the garbage disposer because I've lost count of the number of disposers I've either permanently destroyed or temporarily disabled because of the number of peelings I tried to feed it!

(By the way, in Scotland we had a pig man who would come round every week and empty the "swill bin" - this was a special rubbish bin kept up by the wash house where my Granny and our neighbors would put peelings and other leftovers for the man to take away for his pigs. I don't know if we got paid for this or not.

Oh, and this is totally unrelated, but I'm also remembering the rag man who used to come around in the summer yelling, "Rags? Any old rags?". My Granny would sell him our old clothes and I believe he took them away to be sold to the mills for paper -I suppose we were recycling a lot more then than now.)

OK, back to the potatoes:

If you want an easier job mashing your potatoes and/or if you want those said potatoes to cook up quicker, dice the whole potato (this means, cut in half, then those halves in halves, and so on until you have nice size lumps about the size you like your potato salad). Keep your peeled potatoes in fresh, clean, cold, salted water until you're ready to boil them.

When all your potatoes are ready, make sure you have water covering the potatoes and enough room at the top of the pot for bubbling, boiling water - because if you don't it will all boil over and you'll have to turn to the household hints page, which does not exist in this book, to learn the easiest way to clean your messy, potato juicy stove.

If you haven't already, add some salt for flavoring. Watch that salt, though, for the reasons I've already told you. (Right, Scottish food tends to load up on the cholesterol, desserts add sugar, but here I am telling you to look out for the salt!)

Boil the potatoes until they are the soft texture you like. Drain the potatoes into a colander, saving your potato water, as all the good cook books say, for your gravy. If you're going to save the water remember to put your colander into some sort of pan or bowl or you can watch your water steam happily down your kitchen sink!

Transfer your potatoes into a big mixing bowl - we always needed a very big bowl!

Start mashing, and while you're mashing boil some milk in your potato pot. This is to keep your potatoes hot when you add the milk to cream your potatoes, in case you're wondering. When you have them pretty well mashed it's time to add butter, (John liked lots of butter and only a little milk), a little salt, pepper, and the hot milk. Oh, they're good.

Garnish with paprika and stir in a little sour cream and you have a really great dish!

Charlotte's Sweet Potatoes/Yams

I can never remember which are the ones I buy, but they are the nice red ones, not the stringy yellow things. Anyhow, the trick with these things is to parboil them. This is really nice because you only have to pick out the eyes and bad parts (which I hope I told you to do with the mashed potatoes and the potato salad) and drop them into water and boil them. They'll boil up quicker if you slice them in half, but since these usually only get made when you're on a cooking binge at some special holiday like Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter or something else involving a turkey or a ham, you've got plenty of other things to do while they boil so time is not often of the essence with sweet potatoes/yams.

Only boil them until they're semi soft, though. Drain them out of the water - and, believe me, you're not going to want to save this water for anything - and let them cool enough for you to touch. When they're cool, you just strip the skins off them really easily. And that's another reason the parboiling is nice - the peeling and the slicing are much easier. When you've got them stripped, that's when you can slice them into the sizes you want for baking. Layer your slices with butter and brown sugar or honey or pancake syrup and put into the famous 350 or 400 degree oven for baking.

Just before you serve them, add the marshmallows that everybody but Stephanie enjoys and serve nice and hot.

You know what's really nice about parboiling your sweet potatoes/yams? Those slices are soft enough to eat and if you dip them into the butter and brown sugar stuff you have ready for the casserole they make a really great nibble snack until that great big holiday meal is ready - watch out for the kids, though - mine yell at me for this!

Charlotte's Zucchini

Take about half a dozen nice, medium sized zucchini. Wash them off and slice. Put in a microwave casserole with a teeny, tiny, little bit of water. Cover and microwave about five minutes. Check for doneness and, when done - which means cooked to the consistency you like - cover with grated cheese and put back in the microwave, or under the broiler if you want your melted cheese a little brown - just enough to melt.

Charlotte Once Made Pumpkin for her Pie

Peter, Peter, Pumkin Eater

This is really the easiest way to cook any squash - and that really was the best pumpkin pie I ever cooked:

Take a medium sized squash of any kind.
Cut in half.
Scoop out the seeds.
Use a teflon cookie sheet or lightly butter a regular cookie sheet.
Put your two halves of squash upside down on the sheet.
Bake at 350 about half an hour or until you're done.
Bob's your uncle.

Yes, Children dear, I know that Bob's your Uncle, (and I am sending him one of these books.) But, "Bob's your uncle," in Scotland means the job is an easy one, or it's finished. It's another in the line of cute Scottish expressions that confuse Americans like "turn on the wireless," or "keep your pecker up," or, "Let me introduce you to the man who knocks me up every morning," or "It's raining outside, don't forget to use your rubbers," or "I'm dying for a smoke, gie's a fag," or "There isn't any room in the car for that parcel, put it in the boot." I'm sure there are others, but these are my favorites.

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