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Let’s Cook: Mastering closet chaos and more

John Paul’s Casserole

It was inescapable. From the moment Lydia arrived into our lives 15 years ago, we have been reading to her, sharing history with her, and explaining the meaning to her of several interesting items that we have collected over the years in our home.

As a parent, I was delighted that at age four she could explain the particulars of French Provincial, Chippendale and Hepplewhite furniture. Did I hear you ask if I had materials or perhaps real examples of these styles of furniture? The answer to that would be yes — especially in the material area. For many years I have been a long-time collector of printed articles and books that feature the festive tones of my desires. It was only natural that I would introduce them to Lydia — oh the thrill she gave my heart when she could not only name our china pattern but describe it in detail. Many adventures awaited: the thrills of Nancy Drew, the interesting lives of Amelia Earhart and impressive First Ladies, and the joy to watching Keeping up Appearances with Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet, I will have you know). I feel you are catching the drift, and I could go on with several subjects but will idle with the following.

If you are wondering about my cookbook collection — not to worry. I have enough books to make a complete trail from Rugby to Minot-and back! Parents do influence children in their interests. I have proof because Lydia stayed late at an auction sale because she wanted to purchase a large apple box of recipe clippings! Oh, be still my heart! Upon escorting them home, she immediately began sorting them in a systematic fashion in our living room. On the sofa were jams and jellies, cookies and cakes recipes. She made room for the hotdishes and various canning recipes under the coffee table. She not only sorted but took time to read them and made a pile “to try.” At this moment, I knew that once she laid eyes on my many stacks of collections, there would be much sorting done in our home.

When did the sorting began? It started one month ago with my closet; I exchanged a hodgepodge for a now completely colored-coded and arrangement by garment style closet. (I never realized I had so many polos!) I still from time to time open the doors to admire the beauty. My goodness, dressing up or down has certainly become easier. There is now a reason to the madness of my closet. My conservative navy suit is now keeping time with my lime green and several plaid sportscoats; and though they clash, each of them serves a purpose in my various appearances. They are glad that the bedlam of Hawaiian shirts crowding their space has concluded.

Lydia delights in all organizing, and like her mother, she is a natural. I have a fine memory and can find that 1918 postcard I saved with the embossed tangerine and cranberry — it is under the pile of Ideal magazines! The time has now come to completely organize my collections with the assistance of Lydia. I can literally dump boxes of treasures at her feet and know that she will aid me in sorting out the hundreds of poems, postcards, vintage greeting cards, and let us not forget my collection of textiles, which range from mini dollies to crocheted tablecloths.

We have been working on cookbooks, and I came across a cookbook that was once my Aunt Elaine’s. She was married to my dad’s brother, Milton, and they resided in New Salem. She was a dear lady and quiet in her nature, not one to draw attention to herself. I knew that she was a good cook and her family generously offered several of her cookbooks at one of our family gatherings. I selected three of them and what a joy it has been to read them, because Aunt Elaine made several notes in them. She commented on what to add to recipes, what to put less in, and if was a good recipe to keep in general. The cookbook of feature today in the Elm Crest Manor Cookbook, 2nd edition, 1986 compiled by residents and staff of Elm Crest Manor in New Salem. The cookbook also features the first edition which was printed in October 1981.

The content includes fine recipes, and many reflecting the German heritage of that area such onion kuchen. In the 1981 edition there is a Mustard Plaster (for chest colds) by Verna Roemich. I can recall my mom telling how her mother use this when colds made an appearance at their home.

The recipe I tried from this cookbook is called John Paul’s Casserole and it was submitted by Rebecca Engwicht. Like always, I have my test committee– Jan and Lydia-give their advice if we should make it again or pass it by. They both said, “make it again.” The beauty of this recipe is that it can be made the night before and then all you have to is place it in the oven and in less than an hour, you will have a hearty delicious meal.

John Paul’s Casserole

Place each layer in a 9×13 pan that has been greased:

1st layer: 8 oz cooked noodles (I used 10 lasagna noodles)

2nd layer: 1 cup sour cream

3 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese at room temperature

1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

6 green onions (tops also) chopped fine

Blend sour cream, cream cheese and cheddar cheese together and then top with onions

3rd layer: 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, fried with salt and pepper to taste and made crumbly

2 8-oz cans of tomato sauce to which 1 tablespoon of sugar has been added.

Sprinkle the top with shredded cheddar cheese

Set in refrigerator overnight to let the flavor ooze through.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 30 to 45 minutes.

NOTE: I added a thin layer of spinach before placing the onions in the second layer which received a high five in our house.

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