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Recipes bring us home

Take time to teach a new generation how to make your family’s favorite meals.

Years ago, I wrote a cooking column for our sister publication Living the Country Life, and my very first recipe was my mom’s homemade chicken and noodles.

I knew that I wanted to start with my favorite dish from my childhood, but when I asked my mom for the recipe, she had to stop and think about it since it was all in her memory. She didn’t think it was anything special, but to me, it was home.

I was lucky enough to inherit a hand-written recipe file from my great-aunt, and it’s filled with all kinds of goodies I remember, like her famous chocolate chip macaroons. I love seeing her handwriting almost as much as reading her recipes, and I was thrilled when I spotted my grandma’s handwriting on one of the cards in the file containing her snickerdoodle recipe. It’s now permanently on display on my pantry door.

This year, my oldest son, Jake (pictured above), is a sophomore in college and is living in a house with his roommate from last year. Now that he has to pay bills, he’s paying more attention to the cost of food, and even he can only eat tacos and pizza so many days in a row.

Although he earned the cooking merit badge on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout, Jake has never really shown an interest in cooking on a regular basis until now. I offered to put together some recipes for him, and he liked that idea. Since everything in his life is digital, I was pleasantly surprised when he said he’d like to have them written on recipe cards. 

I bought a cute vintage recipe box for him and started writing recipes on note cards. Because I was trying to keep things simple, I wrote down even the most basic of his most-loved dishes, like French toast.

I put together bunches of the recipes I’ve found myself making over and over again since becoming a mom ­— things I remember Jake being especially fond of, like meatloaf, mac and cheese, ham balls, and chili.

When I asked Jake which recipes he wanted to make sure were included, the first thing he said was green bean casserole. We always have it on holidays, and he goes crazy for it. I told him he could add some cooked chicken or ham and turn it into a hearty meal on a college-kid budget.

I was surprised when he asked for that recipe. I didn’t think it was anything special, but to Jake, it was home. 

Smoky green bean casserole

To be honest, when I make green bean casserole, all I do is drain a few cans of green beans, mix in a can or two of cream of mushroom soup, top with French-fried onions, and bake until bubbly. Here’s a fancier version for you to try.

4 14.5-ounce cans cut green beans, drained
1 cup bottled roasted red sweet peppers, drained and cut into strips
1 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 10.75-ounce can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 cup shredded smoked Gouda or cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
¼ cup milk
2 tablespoons coarse-grain mustard
1-1/3 cups canned French-fried onions

  1. In a large bowl combine green beans, sweet peppers, and water chestnuts. In a medium bowl, stir together soup, cheese, milk, and mustard; pour over bean mixture and stir to combine. Spoon half of the bean mixture into a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker. Top with half of the onions. Repeat layers.
  2. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 3½ to 4½ hours or on high-heat setting for 2 to 2½ hours.

Number of Servings: 12. Nutrition Facts (per serving): 139 calories, 8 g fat total (2 g satuated fat), 9 mg cholesterol, 15 g carbohydrates, 622 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 4 g protein.

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