Let’s Cook: An evening ‘picnic’

Hometown Casserole

Can you guess what Jan, Lydia and I have in common with the Golden Girls, I Dream of Jeannie, I love Lucy and Elvis? If you are thinking we could be on the silver screen with them, well, thanks but that is not it. Perhaps that one of us has a hint of red hair and sometime acts like Lucy? That is not it either. I will give you a hint, it involves the dining room table. Did I hear you say dishes? Bingo!

The common dominator in our lives is that we have all been connected to dishes that were created by Franciscan. They created numerous patterns; however, some of their more popular patterns were Apple, Desert Rose and Ivy. Sofia, Dorothy and Blanche were filmed having tea out of a Desert Rose teapot. Captain Tony Nelson on I Dream of Jeannie had Apple dinnerware, The Ricardo’s on I love Lucy enjoyed Franciscan Ivy, and Elvis Presley was all shook up over Franciscan Apple when it arrived at his Graceland home.

You have probably figured out that sometimes I could be off on a thing or two. However, when it comes to dishes, I am usually right on. I have been known to holler out china patterns at movies when seeing a sugar bowl, sauce dish or teapot. If you are hemmed in at the theater and need more room, simply holler out Chester by Syracuse! This quickly gets people to move away. I really can’t help it; my parents collected dishes and upon meeting Jan, I quickly realized that most of her loved ones were also into dishes. My retentive memory needs to share these patterns!

During our childhoods, many of us can recall that Sunday dinners included a well-set table with

“Good dishes”–the family china. With the recent social distancing, I decided to bring this tradition back to our dining room table on Sunday evening. Every day that we live presents opportunities for taking it up a notch. Maybe we take time for a stroll in the park, a ride in the country, smile at that first yellow flower in our lawns, write a letter to a loved one, and indulge in some orange flavored chocolate. All of these joyful experiences, including setting a nice table for dinner, represent a shuttle and as this shuttle is passed through warp it weaves a rug. This rug represents the patterns of our lives through pleasures, perseverance and the meal served in a box!

As a child I can remember washing our good dishes after a meal. It was during this time that I learned from my mom where they came from. Some were from my grandparents, others were wedding gifts, and some were simply purchased because they were too beautiful to leave in the store. This sink time gave way to nostalgia including talks about holiday gatherings and family meals around our dining room table. It is for this reason that I still treasure the china gifted to us by my parents. It was transported with good energy, and the plates came with their own story and room to make further prominent memories for another generation.

There is a good feeling in our house when each of us takes a turn at setting a creative table. When I walk into the dining room and see that Jan and Lydia have spent time adoring the table, it makes me think that this meal is going to be an elevated experience. It also lets each of us have a play with color, patterns and textures and that many times gives way to think outside the box.

I recently read the china and dinnerware is making a comeback with young couples. Granted, many are not registering for complete sets of china when they marry but rather looking to things that have history such as heirloom china. Many couples want their home to feel unique and family china can fill part of this desire. It is also fun to note that many couples don’t feel the need to have everything match and find a homier fit with mix-and match dishes and flatware. Many downsizing boomers are getting rid of their china, and this is the perfect time for anyone interested in creating an inspirational collection with perhaps a variety of patterns.

Earlier I mentioned dishes that have a good energy, and that is how I felt about the Franciscan dishes featured in this column’s picture. The pattern is called Picnic, and it was introduced in 1971 with a design that showcases a fond flower of that time period, the carefree and whimsical daisy. Tones of pale green and sunny yellow complete the palette. The unique pedestal coffee cups are retro and hold a good jolt of coffee. When I noticed these in a thrift store, I could hear James Taylor singing “You’ve Got a Friend” and that is all it took for me to take them home and enjoy an venturesome evening picnic.

We will in time recover from COVID-19 and when that time comes may we look back and reflect upon some of the joys that come with time on our hands. Part of our family reflection will be Sunday evening table settings and the conversation shared around a creative table top.

Often for Sunday meals we enjoy a casserole which was recently the case. This is hometown casserole is easy and the key to bringing out the flavor is to use green onions and to let it set up overnight. If you are looking for something like an egg bake with more volume here it is.

Hometown Casserole

6 cups frozen, shredded hash brown potatoes

1 ½ cups shredded cheddar or Swiss cheese

2 cups diced, cooked ham

¾ cup sliced green onions

½ cup green pepper

½ cup red pepper

8 large eggs beaten

2 12-ounce cans evaporated milk

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

½ teaspoon dry mustard

Grease a 3-quart baking dish. Arrange potatoes evenly in the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with cheese, ham, green onion and green and red peppers. In a large mixing bowl combine eggs, milk salt, pepper, mustard and season salt. Pour mixture over potato mixture in dish.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake (best to leave overnight). When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake, uncovered, and for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until the center appears set. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. For extra zip, serve with a good dollop of sour cream that has been season will dill weed.


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