Home cook inspired by memories of meals with mom, grandma

Published 5:31 pm Monday, May 4, 2015

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Like many who grew up in Carter County, cooking was a tradition in my family.
Sit-down meals and large Sunday dinners were the norm during my childhood. And, let’s not forget the large holiday feasts so many of us had the privilege of taking part in.
I grew to love cooking at an early age, due in large part to my mother and grandmother. Many are the memories I have of sharing a kitchen with them as we cooked for the family. Or, rather, they cooked and I did my part to make a large mess.
Over the years, though, I eventually learned how to make more than just a mess in the kitchen, and that is due to the patience and guidance of my mother and grandmother, along with the freedom they gave me to mess up once in a while so I could learn from my mistakes.
My grandmother is gone now, but I cherish every memory I have of time spent with her. I also inherited her recipe collection, a treasure trove in my opinion. Sorting through the recipes — some on index cards, some clipped from newspapers or packaging, and some scribbled in haste on receipts or napkins or whatever was handy at the time — I am blessed not only with the recipes themselves but the memories of family meals whenever I come across a favorite dish.
When I first considered writing a column on cooking, I thought back to the tradition of cooking in my family. The smiles, the memories, the good times surrounded by family all were brought to mind. So I decided what better way to honor that tradition with my first column than to give you a recipe from my grandmother, one from my mother and one from my own kitchen.
May these recipes bring as many happy memories to your kitchen as they have ours.

Vidalia Onion Casserole
from the kitchen of Ernestine Wishon Gross
Whenever my grandmother cooked, there were always plenty of side dishes to help fill you up. This was one of her more unique dishes, and one that was often requested, especially by my father.
6 large Vidalia onions, peeled and sliced very thinly
Salt and pepper
1⁄2 cup butter
30 Ritz crackers (use one sleeve of crackers, coarsely crushed)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish.
In a large saucepan, melt butter. Add onions to pan and season with salt and pepper. Over high heat, saute until soft and just starting to brown, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat.
Place half of the onions in the baking dish; cover with half the crackers, and half of the Parmesan.
Repeat to make another layer of onions, crackers and Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, until cheese on top is lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.

from the kitchen of Deborah Gross Morris
My mother has had this simple muffin recipe since she was in high school. She learned to make this recipe in her Home Economics class. One of my family’s favorite things about this recipe is how versatile it is. You can add blueberries or strawberries to it if you want, or if you’re craving something sweet you can add chocolate chips. Another easy way to jazz these muffins up is to simply drop a spoon of your favorite jelly into the batter once it’s in the muffin tin. These muffins are also good plain with just a little butter on them. There are so many things you can do to this simple muffin recipe.
2 cups sifted self-rising flour
1⁄4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a mixing bowl combine flour and sugar. In a separate bowl combine the egg, milk and oil.
Stir the wet mixture quickly into the dry ingredients until dampened. The batter will be lumpy.
Spoon into greased muffin pan or into muffin cups.
Bake for 20 minutes. Makes a dozen muffins.

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Hasbrown Casserole
from the kitchen of Abby Morris-Frye
I love to make this for big dinners – such as family gatherings or potlucks – because the recipe yields a large casserole. I have learned to make sure I take the recipe with me, because someone is bound to ask for it.
2 pounds of frozen hash browns (DO NOT THAW)
8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 small onion, diced
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 stick butter or margarine, melted
8 ounces sour cream
Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large (and I do mean large) bowl, combine soup, sour cream, onion and cheddar cheese. Mix well. Add in hashbrowns a little at a time and stir well until all the hasbrowns have been added and mixture is well blended.
Spoon into a large, greased or buttered casserole dish and smooth out. Pour melted butter over top and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 1 hour.
Abby was born and raised in the Stoney Creek community of Carter County. Her love of cooking grew over the years as she worked in the kitchen alongside her mother and grandmother. Reach her at abby.frye@elizabethton.com.