Last month I made a jar of root beer jelly.
Nobody but me’s ever going in the fridge to look for it. And unless my pooch Crowley grows thumbs, nobody else in this family will ever open the jar to eat it (bless their taste-deficient hearts). But after I poured it into a jar, I decided it needed a label.
I have this giant, black hole of a junk drawer that I toss stuff into. I don’t think I’ve actually gone all the way through it, ever. So, I went mining for labels.
And, I found them—at the bottom. Along the way, I found at least a hundred photos from the mists of time. And while looking through them, I found three very beloved recipes that I had made peace with never seeing again.
The first recipe is for the best apple fritters I’ve ever eaten. I thought I had recreated the recipe, and even shared it in an earlier column. But it wasn’t even close.
Mrs. Oldham’s Apple Fritters
2 cups Bisquick
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup sugar
Approximately ½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
15 gratings of nutmeg
1 large peeled and chopped apple
Oil for frying
Whisk together 3 cups powdered sugar, 3-4 tablespoons milk, and a pinch of salt until smooth.
Stir together first nine ingredients, holding back some milk. The dough should be the consistency of hush puppy dough. Add more milk as needed, without overbeating. Fold in apples.
Let sit while you heat about 3 inches of vegetable oil in large heavy pot until it’s 350 degrees. Using cookie scoop, drop generous tablespoons into heated oil (no more than six at a time), and cook for 2-3 minutes, turning occasionally until browned on all sides.
Remove with slotted spoon, and once it’s stopped sizzling, drizzle glaze over fritter. Makes about 2 dozen.
The next recipe is for a crockpot tamale dip. It’s from Loretta Jolly, via an Albemarle Hospital co-worker. It’s a make-and-forget game-day superstar.
Chili Cheese Dip
1 pound Velveeta cheese
1-14 ounce can Armour Chili (no beans)
1-15 ounce can Hormel beef tamales
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon hot sauce
Throw everything into a crockpot, turn it on and bring to slow simmer. Serve in the crockpot set to low. For service, top with shredded cheese, cover and let melt on top.
The last recipe is from family friend, Mama Cat. She received it from her friend and fellow Coast Guard wife, Pat Csintayn.
1 lb crab meat
1 lb cooked shrimp
1 small can mushrooms, drained
½ small green pepper, minced
½ cup minced onion
1 cup minced celery
1-6 oz box Uncle Ben’s long grain and wild rice
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup milk
½ teaspoon each, salt & pepper
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Cook rice, add first seven ingredients.
In separate bowl, mix mayo, salt & pepper, milk, and Worcestershire. Add to rice mixture.
Pour into buttered 2-quart casserole dish and sprinkle with bread crumbs.
Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Serves 6-8, depending on course and side dishes.
These recipes, along with some from my mom, made up the foundation of my first adulting cooking repertoire. They’re simple and easy, but each makes an impact.
But, these dishes still hold up. Add a fresh baguette and a simple salad, and this could be a kind of training-wheels dinner party. Who doesn’t love a fresh apple fritter?
Or, singly, each could be a welcome respite from the familiar family food playbook. Hunger may season all dishes, but surprise gets them to the table quicker.
Thanks for your time.
Contact debbie at firstname.lastname@example.org.