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by Louise Hart

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Sirius Publications



© 2001 by Louise Hart.  All Rights Reserved.

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Cover art design copyright 2002 by Sirius Publications. Cover graphic copyright 2002 www.ArtToday.com.


Printed in the United States of America


ISBN 1-930889-40-2


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About the Author



Poet and author Louise Hart has been writing since she was five years of age and has been published since she was thirteen.  A former journalist, columnist, teacher and entrepreneur, she was dubbed the new Emily Dickinson by the editor of Mustang Review, a prestigious imagistic poetry journal, for her poem, “Snow”.  She has also named Poet Laureate of Greater Lawrence by the Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.  She taught gourmet cooking for a number of years and was the author of The Valley Gourmet, a weekly syndicated column that appeared in news magazines throughout the northeast.


Louise’s other books include:


Prayers for the Temple Within

The Book of Trees, vols. I through IV

Mill Girls and their Daughters

Tales of a City Maid

On the Death of Love and Other Poems

Sept. 2001: In Memoriam

New Poems

The Valley Gourmet Adventures in Food A to Z

The Boy Who Knew and Other Stories

The Racer’s Edge and Other Stories

The Haunted House Diary

Holiday Stories

A Hart-y Look at U.S.

Ashley and Cat Bad

Ashley, the Finicky Cat

Ashley and Midnight

Ashley and Jimmy

Ashley and Shadow

What Does a Tick Sound Like?


A native of Massachusetts, Louise is a graduate of Boston University, the University of Massachusetts and Harvard University.  She has also completed the Institute in Economic and Urban Development at Tufts University in Medford, MA and attended law school.  A business consultant and president of a non-profit corporation promoting careers in the arts, Louise is a former member of the National Advisory Council of the National Health Service Corps of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C.  She was awarded the Derek Bok Prize for Outstanding Leadership in Community Service by Harvard and similarly named to the state honor roll for Outstanding Leadership in Community Service by the American Association of University Women.  In addition to poetry, cookbooks, historical non-fiction, Louise is the author of children’s books, short stories, essays, humor and fiction.





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This Volume is Dedicated to: Great-Grandma,

Grandma and Ma, whose creativity and

resourcefulness were the inspiration

for the recipes and stories within






“A woman who can't cook or manage money is no          good."  I can't remember the first time I heard that phrase, but I do remember that I heard it often.  In an Irish American household, it is more than a phrase or a opinion, the words carried with them the weight of a rule of law.


It is possible that the origin of the phrase was rooted in the early experience of the immigrant Irish.  Those who came in the mid-1800's to escape starvation and pestilence in the Erin Isles faced hardship and discrimination on this side of the ocean.  In spite of being paid only "half the wages of a (black)" when they were allowed to work at all, thanks to the money management skills of the Irish women, within a year, the Irish were to open their first bank.  It was in this achievement that the legend of the home management skills of Irish women was born.  As one historian quoted those at the time, "give an Irishman ten cents and his wife will live on half and save the rest."  The observation was true and was reflected in the Irish adherence to old adages as the wisdom of the generations past.  How many times in my childhood did I hear, "The best way to save money is not to spend it in the first place."  That was "their secret".


My great grandmother was one of the mill girls of Lowell, Mass.  She grew up working in the mills.  After she married, she continued to work in the mills.  She had no choice, for her husband went west in search of gold, leaving her to raise three children by herself. He never returned.

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Although only five feet four inches in height and slight of build, she proved more than up to the task, for she was gifted with a keen photographic memory.  She was the worker picked by her fellow workers to recite the classics to them while they worked.  Great Grandmother Emily Sherlock Riley gladly gave her daily recitations from the Bible and the works of Shakespeare.  She had committed both to memory as she would later read and commit to memory the works of Dickens, Wells and Poe, three of the authors on whose books she spent whatever spare pennies, dimes or dollars she was able to save.

As each of her daughters reached the age of twelve, she too followed her mother into the mills.  Life as a mill girl was hard.  Hard enough that great grandma's oldest daughter would die of consumption (tuberculosis) at the age of twenty-two.  Her death scarred the life of her little sister, my grandmother, who had demonstrated an ability to sew and create with her hands equal to that of her mother‘s.  She, too, was chosen by her fellow workers to make daily recitations, but unlike her mother, she did not quote from the classics.  Instead, as the scrapbooks of clippings that she kept showed, she quoted from the old adages and newspapers of the day.  Her mother knew the old adages of the Bible.  She knew them and Ben Franklin's as well.


She also knew how to make a meal of almost nothing by today's standards.  Just as she took scraps of cloth and old clothing and turned them into the curtains, drapes, rugs, quilts and doilies which decorated her home, she could make a meal to feed her family and company with just a few potatoes and a quarter pound of cold meat.  She often had nothing else to serve or eat, but as the Irish who seemed to have a saying for everything noted, " 'It is no shame to come to an Irish table hungry, but shame on the Irish woman from whose table a guest goes in hunger".  My mother always swore that her parent’s relatives knew and took advantage of her mother's generosity, usually timing their arrivals for their unannounced visit to the family’s scheduled Sunday dinner, especially during the depression.


At fifty-five years of age, after raising her own children, my grandmother was to step in when her sister died and take over the responsibility of raising her four children rather than allow the children to go to an orphanage.  With her savings, she bought a house opposite the mill on Perry Street in Lowell, converting the first floor into a little convenience store and luncheonette while keeping the second floor as the home for the four children and her.  To earn extra income for the children, she prepared lunches for the mill workers that the children carried to the mill in lunch buckets.  It was rumored in the family that she also kept track of the numbers for the workers.  With four children to feed, great-grandmother was not about to pass up any source of much-needed income.

Her daughter would follow in her footsteps.  After raising my mother primarily in an apartment house across the street from where Bette Davis and her mother lived, my grandmother moved to an apartment on Perry Street in Lowell.  The new apartment had extra room which allowed my grandmother to help a cousin with thirteen children by taking in, feeding and clothing those of the cousin's children.  She told me that she welcomed the children for she had always wanted a large family.  With three of her own four children dead, her cousin’s children became her surrogate grandchildren.  Without her help, it was certain that the cousin could not afford to take care of so many children by himself.


For both women, the skills extolled in the old adage were a matter of survival, and thus, often quoted to the young females who followed them.  Certainly, my mother, a mill girl as well, knew the value of the adages.  She was the only one of my grandmother's children to survive infancy.  Out of family necessity, she started to work in the mills at the age of fourteen, but her mother who had risen to the status of a consultant, teaching others how to make braided rugs, encouraged her daughter to return to school.  My mother took advantage of her mother’s offer.  She applied and was accepted for nurse’s training.   After completing her training as a licensed practical nurse, she continued on to earn her degree as a registered nurse.  She was always proud to have been a graduate of Tewksbury State Hospital’s School of Nursing and Danvers State Hospital’s School of Nursing.   She interned at Boston City Hospital and often told me stories about her experiences and the patients for whom she cared.  She noted that the work was hard for student nurses.  They worked long hours for little pay.  The experience must have been rewarding for she and her classmates stayed in touch with one another for as long as she lived.


Following her graduation from Danvers State, she married my father with whom she would raise eight children.  A businessman, electrician and policeman, my father would often say that he owed whatever success and community status he achieved to the little Irish woman he had the good fortune to marry.  She could both cook and manage money.

According to my mother, I was four when I first started making my own dinner in a little electric stove an oven that my parents gave me.  I also baked potatoes and biscuits for my bothers.  I have been cooking ever since.


While my career as a teacher, writer and businesswoman was quite different from that of my mother's, so long as she, my grandmother and my great grandmother lived, we were bonded together by our skills at money management and our love of cooking.  Like them, I have known the need and appreciated the advantages of being able to manage money, but it is in the kitchen that I feel the most in tune with my heritage.  I remember each of them as I once again prepare a recipe as they taught me to do.  I see their hand and their delight in the faded yellow recipe cards on which they penned their favorite recipes for me to follow.  I hear their admonishment and their advice when I prepare one of the home remedies by which they swore.  In fact, after my first child was born by caesarian section when I was but seven months along, it was in desperation that I sought my mother's help.  My son was having difficulty.  He appeared to be allergic to all the new formulas that the doctors just kept juggling hoping that one would work.  I knew that my mother had used a special formula when she had delivered twins at seven months and that they had flourished under her care.  My mother sent her recipe for the formula to me by overnight delivery.   I prepared the formula as my mother instructed and gave it to my son.  The change was immediate and for the better.  He no longer cried from hunger.  He did not react to the formula.  He was satiated after feeding and began to flourish even as my brothers' had.  My mother's old recipe worked wonders.  A child who was not expected to survive is today an engineer.


Recently, to save many of the treasured recipes and helpful household hints which came to me from my mother, grandmother, great grandmother and their mothers before them, I began to enter them on a computer, a machine they would not have dreamed of as they worked in the mill, but one which, if they were here today, I am sure they would have all learned how to use.  They may have sworn by the old values, but they were all women who very much kept up with the technical advances of their day. 

My original motive in entering the recipes into the computer was to save them for another generation.  However, as I typed them, I realized that there may be many other women such as myself who would appreciate the recipes and wisdom which I have been fortunate enough to receive.  What started out as a family project has thus grown into a book.  It probably should have been called Mill Girl Recipes, but in honor of those from whom the recipes have come I have named it, My Grandmother's Book of Recipes and Helpful Hints.  As you read it, I hope you will share their memory with me.


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MOM’S FAMOUS BEEF STEW                                                  17               

MOM’S CHICKEN SOUP                                                            21

DAD’S FAVORITE SPLIT PEA SOUP                                        22

QUICK POTATO PUFF                                                               25

GRANDMA’S MEAT LOAF                                                         27

THE WORLD’S BEST BOILED HAM                                         29

HOLIDAY BAKED HAM                                                             30


TRADITIONAL CORNED BEEF HASH                                      34

HASHED CORNED BEEF PIE                                                     35

CORNED BEEF CUPS                                                                 36

EASY CORNED BEEF PATTIES                                                 37

AN IRISH PIZZA                                                                        38

GRANDMA’S OVEN FRIED CHICKEN                                      40               

HOLIDAY ROAST TURKEY                                                      42

MOM’S LAMB                                                                            43               

“IRISH” SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS                                   44               

SCRUMPTIOUS BEEF PIE                                                         48               

QUICK CHICKEN SCONES                                                       49               


NEVER SAY LEFTOVER                                                            51     

MOM’S BAKED CUCUMBERS AND HAM                                 52

GRANDMA’S CREAM SAUCE                                                   53     

MOM’S FAVORITE CREAM SAUCE II                                      53     

SERVE CHEESE SAUCE PLEASE                                               54     

MACARONI AND HAM                                                              54     

MADE AT HOME CHICKEN PIE                                                56     

SURE TO PLEASE MACARONI AND CHEESE                         61     

GOLDEN CHEESE CROQUETTES                                             62     

ENTERTAINING RAREBIT                                                        63     

RICH CHEESE SOUP                                                                  64

GRANDMA’S CLEAR SOUP STOCK                                         65     

DAD’S FAVORITE SEA SCALLOPS                                          68     

QUICK FISH CROQUETTES                                                      68

CROQUETTE SAUCE                                                                 69     

FUN(D)RAISING CRAB MEAT SALAD                                     73     

HOLIDAY SALMON SALAD                                                      74     

CHANGE OF PACE SCALLOPED POTATOES                           82     

THREE FOR ONE DISH                                                              83     

STUFFED ONIONS                                                                    85     

QUEEN CAKE                                                                             87     

FROSTED STARS                                                                       90     

MOLASSES SUGAR COOKIES                                                  91     

MOTHER’S SUGAR COOKIES                                                  94     

BRAN DROP COOKIES                                                             95     

OATMEAL COOKIES                                                                 96     

LACY OATMEAL COOKIES                                                      98     

CHOCOLATE OATMEAL COOKIES                                          99     

OLD-FASHIONED COOKIES                                                     100    

MOLASSES DROP COOKIES                                                    101    

GRANDMA’S GINGER SNAPS                                                  102

COOKIE JAR COOKIES                                                             103    

FRUITED CRUMB COOKIES                                                     104

IRRESISTIBLE ANISE COOKIES                                              106

TRADITIONAL BUTTER COOKIES                                          107

CHILDREN’S COOKIES                                                             108

COCONUT SQUARES                                                                109

MOM’S MOLASSES COOKIES                                                  112

STOVE TOP HERMITS                                                               120

SIMPLE SUGAR COOKIES                                                        122

TOO GOOD TO WAIT DONUTS                                               125

SUNDAY SPICE CAKE                                                               128

CRAZY COCONUT CAKE                                                          129

CUP CAKES                                                                                130

TENDER ONE-EGG CAKE                                                         131

ST. PAT’S DAY IRISH BREAD                                                    133

MY BEST BANANA BREAD                                                       139

QUICK OATMEAL FRUIT BREAD                                             141

ONE-BOWL MIRACLE CHOCOLATE CAKE                             144

TRADITIONAL CHOCOLATE CAKE                                         145

MOTHER’S MAIDETTE CAKE                                                  148

BASIC FROSTING                                                                     151

CHOCOLATE CHIP CAKE                                                          152

TRULY FUDGE BROWNIES                                                       154

CREAMY BLACK MOONS                                                         155

MOON FILLING                                                                         156

TRADITIONAL HOMEMADE FUDGE                                       157

MOM’S RICE PUDDING                                                            158

HELPFUL HINTS                                                                        160


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Although the Irish are known as the meat and potato people, in truth, for many, meat was often a scarce commodity with what little was available to be shared by too many mouths.  The whole family would work together on small family farms in Ireland - just as whole families worked together in the mills and ours worked together in the family business. Time was precious.  While we were available from an early age to help our mother with the preparing of meals, our schedules lent themselves more to slow cooked stews and soups, the traditional cuisine of the Irish.   My grandmother and great-grandmother slow cooked soups and stews on the back burners of old iron wood stoves. The low, steady heat of the stoves paralleled the way the soups and stews had been cooked in the hearth in the old country. My father bought an electric stove for my mother.  With so many to cook for, he thought that my mother would appreciate the time that it was supposed to save in meal preparation and baking.  However, my mother always made it clear that she longed for the old cast iron wood stove of her childhood.

A pound or two of beef or a ham bone could feed a hungry horde when cooked in soup or stew and since the old adages warned, waste not, want not, a soup or stew which could be served again and again was a perfect way to avoid waste.  My mother was known for her pea soup and beef stew which were often served with hot fresh bread.  I can still see my father scraping even the last morsel from his plate and telling my mother that what remained in the pot would be even better tomorrow.  In fact, he was right.  A good stew and pea soup ripen overnight.  My mother often made the soup or stew one day and refrigerated it overnight.  She would then skim off the fat from the top of the soup or stew before reheating it and serving it for the next night's supper.  Since my mother worked right by my father's side in building the family's business, she always appreciated the convenience of a soup or stew as well, for once it was started, she could leave it to we children to stir and check periodically.  It would need no other tending until she returned from work in time to serve supper.

For a good beef stew, my mother always stressed quality.  She insisted on buying all of the family's vegetables from a farmer and the meat from a butcher whose wife was also one of her friends.  My mother would only make beef stew when they would call her and tell her that they had received some beef that she would find appropriate for stew meat.  She liked her stew meat lean and tender.  I often use cubed sirloin strips just to try to duplicate the tender quality of the meat I remember in her stews. Because she believed that food had medicinal as well as nutritive qualities and preferred natural cures to artificial medicines, she also regularly included them in her beef stew (for my father).  None of us children would eat them.   However, my mother insisted that parsnips were an excellent vegetable for the purifying and building of blood so she would not consider making a stew without them.  The choice of vegetables is, of course, up to the cook, for a stew can be as elaborate or simple as the maker wishes.  I still like to make stew for that reason.  No two need ever be the same.



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Mix together

            1 c. flour

            Salt and pepper to taste

Roll in the flour until covered on all sides

            2 to 3 lbs. stew beef, sirloin or round beef cut in

                        bite-sized pieces

In a large stew pot, melt

            2 tbsp. Butter or margarine

Place meat in pot and brown on all sides.  For added flavor, before you brown the meat, add chopped onions and peppers, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, garlic and oregano to taste.

After the meat is browned on all sides, add

            2 c. water

            Sliced celery

            Sliced whole carrots

            Sliced parsnips

            Quartered peeled whole potatoes

            Brussels sprouts, peas, baby whole onions, if desired

            2 Bay leaves

            A Pinch of Cumin Seed

Bring stew to a low rolling boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender enough to be cut with a fork.  Serve with biscuits, rolls or bread.  Cool leftovers and refrigerate overnight.  Before reheating, skim fat off top of stew.

Use seasoned flour and bullion cubes, if needed, to thicken stew gravy before serving.

Do not try to cut down on the recipe if you are cooking for only one or two people. Cooking less than a full stew can unbalance the ingredients and diminish the flavor.  After we children were grown, my mother overcame the problem of too much stew by dividing leftovers into appropriate sized servings for my father and her.  Beef stew freezes well.  She then placed each portion in appropriately sized containers, dated the containers and stored them in the freezer.  When my mother did not have time to prepare a full meal, she would use one of the containers.  For her, the best-frozen dinners were the ones that she made at home.

With so many mouths to feed, my mother had to buy most of her food in bulk.  Our fruits came in crates or bushel baskets.  Our flour and sugar were bought in fifty- pound bags.  My parents dared not buy a quart or gallon of milk, for on a warm summer's day, it took 24 quarts to satiate my brothers' thirst and sometimes more when my mother would make her ice coffee for them.  As for desserts, my mother had an eight-foot freezer in our cellar.  The freezer was lined with four or five of the same ice cream containers normally found at the ice cream parlors. 

Needless to say, her cooking had to be in equal bulk.  Before even the first frost, my mother added homemade soups to the family's fall and winter menus.  My mother enjoyed serving homemade soups, not just because they did not require the constant attention that other main dishes demand, but also, because they are so much richer and tastier than the canned variety.

My mother loved making enough homemade soup so that she had enough to serve all week.  She also made it ahead and then froze or refrigerated the leftovers.  She and my father agreed that the leftover soup tasted as good or even better than the fresh soup did.

My mother especially liked homemade soup because each soup could be individualized or varied according to the taste of those to whom it would be served.  This individualization applied to the seasonings, meat or fish, and the vegetables or fruits used.  I can remember her telling me when she taught me how to make her soup that the recipe that she was demonstrating was only the basics.  A good cook, she noted, used the basics to build her own recipes her way.

Just as the family had meatless meals at least once a week, my mother also believed in serving stew or soup once a week during the winter.  In fact, it was with her soups and stews in mind that my mother allowed herself one of the few indulgences of her life.  She had a large soup pot made for her.  With it and her imagination, she was able to create many an unforgettable meal.

The basic rules for making soup that my mother preached were to not pierce the meat and to maintain the heat at a slow simmer (with a hint of bubbles in the soup stock).

The first rule is necessary to insure that the meat retains its juices.  It can be easily adhered to using a large wooden spoon to move the meat around the pot without piercing it or picking it up with a knife or fork.

The second of my mother's rules is essential since time is an important ingredient in any good soup stock.  It takes time for the liquid to tenderize the meat and to acquire the right balance of flavor from the meat and spices.  High heat evaporates the liquid and risks burning the meat and vegetables.

The first recipe below is for my grandmother’s chicken soup.   When my mother made chicken soup for one of us when he or she was ill, she served the soup with her "witches brew", a gargle of hot water, vinegar, salt and pepper.   Just the thought of that brew, she knew, was enough to cure most complaints of a sore throat. 

The second recipe is for one of my mother's staples, split pea soup.  The best of a Sunday dinner ham, my mother believed, was the bone that served as the heart of this thick, rich soup.

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Brown in butter in a large cooking pot or crockery pot:

            5 - 6 lbs. stewing chicken, cut in pieces


            1 Bay leaf

            8 Peppercorns

            1 Carrot cut in slices

            1 Onion, quartered

            1 clove of Garlic

            1 stalk of Celery with leaves cut in diagonal pieces

            1 tsp. Salt

Bring to a full boil for about five minutes.  Remove from the heat and skim any scum off the top of the liquid.  Return to the heat and bring to a very slow simmer.  Cook, covered, for 6 hours, adding hot water as needed.  Remove the vegetables if you wish and add one of the variations given below before serving.


            Add cream or 2 tbs. uncooked rice or tapioca to the soup and cook an additional 15 minutes.

            Add 1 tbs. blanched almonds, 1/4 c. sautéed chopped mushrooms (with broth), or egg noodles and cook until tender.

            Add peas or other vegetables to the soup according to taste.




Clean and wash in cold water:

            1 lb. dried Split Peas

Place peas in a large soup pot or crockery pot with:

            3 qt. Water

            1 tsp. Salt

            1        Onion

            1 small rib of Celery

            1 ham bone with meat still on it

Cook slowly for 3 hours.  Remove the celery, onion, and ham.  Pour the peas and the liquid in a blender and blend until smooth.


            2 c. Milk*


            Pureed peas and ham stripped from the bone.  Season to taste with a dash of pepper.  Serve.

            *For an extra rich soup, substitute cream for part of the milk.

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Potatoes that were not cooked in their skins in soup or stews or served as boiled potatoes were served in a variety of other ways.  Mother and grandma preferred to serve potatoes with their skins on because they believed that the skins contained extra nutrients.  They were correct.  Potatoes are, of course, considered one of the most nutritionally complete vegetables.  That was why until the blight ruined their crops, the lowly potato could support the Irish in their homeland.

In our household, potatoes were used as the primary vegetable.  I do not remember mother ever accompanying a roast or other meat dish with anything but potatoes.  Potatoes were served boiled, mashed, fried, baked or in salad.  We used so many potatoes that mother bought them in 50 and 100-pound bags.

On Sunday, mashed potatoes would accompany the roast.  On Monday, any leftover mashed potatoes would be used in a puff or as a topping for a meat pie or pan-fried to accompany the main dish. Tuesday was salad night and mother prided herself on her potato salad. On Wednesday and Thursday, baked, fried or mashed potatoes would again be on the menu.  Friday, French fries invariably accompanied our fried haddock.  When she did not serve beans for supper on Saturday night, mother served potato puff.  Leftover mashed potatoes could even find their way into mother’s donut recipes.  Waste not, want not was more than an adage in our house.  It was a way of life just as much as he who hesitated (at the table) risked not eating what he or she wanted (even mounds of mashed potatoes quickly disappeared with so many growing boys to be fed).

Mother, of course, had automatic potato peelers when we were young.  The peelers even had names.  Ours.  I can remember rising an hour or two early each Sunday in order to peel potatoes (with a hand peeler since mother was quite definite that no more skin be removed than necessary).  When the potatoes and other vegetables were all prepared for cooking, I would go to church.  My mother would then take over on preparing Sunday dinner at which normally we had 15 in attendance (we always had guests).

 In preparing mashed potatoes, if the peeling of the potatoes was left to the younger children, the mashing or putting the potatoes through a ricer was man’s work.  My brothers took turns at the chore and those who were best at it won the title and task most often.  Mother never used skim milk or clear chicken brother in her mashed potatoes as I do.  She was more traditional, preferring to use cream or milk.  She would have used sour cream as I have – if she thought she could get away with it.  Mother loved sour cream and buttermilk.  The men of the house, however, did not.  Therefore, it was not included.  Because of a familial history of hypertension, mother cut the salt (or left it out all together) in most of her recipes.  She made up for it with pepper, a spice she loved.

To vary her mashed potatoes, in addition to the butter (not margarine) that she regarded as a necessity, mother would also flavor them with chopped onion, nutmeg or mace, although not all at once.  She always topped the large mound of mashed potatoes she prepared with butter although after we were grown, she sometimes indulged herself with a sprinkling of paprika, a snip of parsley or chives.

She used Maine or new potatoes to make her mashed potatoes, reserving Idaho potatoes for baking and boiled dishes.      

Her potato puff recipe follows:



Quick Potato Puff


Heat the oven to 425-degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl or pan, beat well

     Large eggs


      2 or more cups cold Mashed Potatoes

Beat again until well blended.  Spoon the mixture into a lightly greased baking dish or drop by spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. (If you are preparing a leftover meat and gravy dish, you can also pipe the potato mixture onto the meat either as a border or as a topping or “crust”.)

Brush the potatoes with melted butter or margarine.  Place in preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the top of the potatoes are lightly browned.

For variety, you can flavor the potato mixture with chopped onion, chive or parsley or shredded cheese. 



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