I don’t know how chilly weather affects you, but it seems that I’ve been spending more time than usual in the kitchen. Thinking of plans to prepare cold-weather recipes, casseroles pop into mind while thawing food from the freezer to make more room inside. And though my outdated inventory sheet often surprises me, the very thought of favorite casseroles has a way of bringing back good memories from the past when it was my mother in the kitchen preparing what we’d all be enjoying at 5:30 that night. It’s a happy time, one I relish in my own way, and is one of the many reasons I love living in a four-season state.

Another reason is the letter I recently received from Shirley B. who has been thinking about a baked chop suey casserole. Made with pork, bean sprouts, and chop suey vegetables topped with chow mein noodles before baking it brings back memories of how good it was 45 years ago. She’d like to make it again, but can’t find the recipe and asked for help. I spent hours looking through my ’50s cookbooks, certain I’d be lucky along the way, but it was to no avail. Last resort was opening my “Junior Cookbook,” a green soft cover 32-page cookbook revised in 1949 and made available to Madison’s Public Junior High Schools by the Board of Education for students taking a home economic course. The only thing remotely close to a chop suey casserole was a recipe for Spanish rice that was partially hidden among my pencil sketches of ballerinas.

Only when I searched through old State Journal clippings did I discover two recipes that might work for Shirley B. However, if you happen to have a baked chop suey recipe from 45 years ago that meets her description, let me know.

Chicken cashew casserole

¼ cup chopped onion

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 tablespoon butter

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1/3 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon soy sauce

3 drops hot pepper sauce

Pepper, to taste

2 cups diced cooked chicken

1 cup chow mein noodles

1/3 cup cashew nuts

Saute onion and celery in butter; add soup and broth and season with soy sauce, hot pepper sauce, and pepper. Add chicken and simmer. Sprinkle noodles and nuts on top and bake 20 minutes at 325 degrees.

Note: Recipe belonged to a Ms. Mercer who claimed this was a good recipe for a buffet, that the sauce can be made a day before, and noodles and nuts can be placed on top just before baking.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

The second recipe, submitted by Mrs. George Jahn, Madison, won first grand prize in the State Journal’s judges’ choice category in the 1960s.

Chicken party casserole

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2½ cups water

1 package chicken noodle dry soup mix

1 can or package frozen French-style green beans, cooked

2 cups cooked chicken, sliced

1 can bean sprouts

5½ ounce can water chestnuts, sliced

1 small can mushrooms

1 tablespoon soy sauce

¼ cup slivered almonds

Blend cornstarch and water in saucepan until smooth. Cook 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining ingredients, except almonds, and transfer to 1½-quart casserole dish. Top with almonds. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

In that same Junior High Cookbook is a baking powder biscuit that might be close to what Karen Tyler, Sauk City, has in mind.

Baking powder biscuits

2 cups sifted flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons fat (shortening)

2/3 cup milk or water

Mix and sift dry ingredients together into a bowl. Cut fat into dry ingredients. Add milk gradually, mixing it in with a fork until dough clears bowl and forms a ball on end of fork. Turn dough on lightly floured board and knead for about 30 seconds. Roll or pat lightly to ½-inch thickness. Cut with floured biscuit cutter. Place on baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees 10-15 minutes.

Lois Jellings Smith’s name will be very familiar to many former high school students as she arrived in Madison to teach General Music at East Junior High during the 1960-61 school year and, when La Follette High School opened during the fall of 1963, became their choral director. Now retired, she enjoys this column with memories from the past, and responded to a reader’s request for a strawberry shortcake recipe she’s had for about 50 years that belonged to Lucy, her mother-in-law, who may have gotten it from her mother. She also adds that you may want to add a little more salt.

Lucy’s shortcake

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

½ cup shortening

1 egg

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup milk

Sift dry ingredients. Stir in shortening. Make a well and put in egg and milk. Do not handle much. Drop onto greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Note: She claims that another favorite shortcake recipe appears on the box of Bisquick.

Smith also mentioned that the chuck wagon cookies appearing here on Sept. 13 have become the new hands-down favorite in her house. If you failed to clip it for making sometime in the future, here it is again, initially shared by Carol Frantz, Belmont.

Chuck wagon cookies

1 cup shortening

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

6-ounce package of chocolate chips

½ cup nuts, chopped

Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Add peanut butter and vanilla and cream well. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt and add to the mixture. Mix in chocolate chips and nuts. Roll dough in balls the size of a walnut. Press down with bottom of a glass that has been greased and dipped in sugar. Bake at 360 degrees (that temperature is correct) for 8-10 minutes. When removed from the oven, leave cookies on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before removing.

Makes 6 dozen.

Because apple season brings thoughts of cakes, pies and breads to enjoy on a daily basis, here is a cake recipe from Baraboo resident Donna Brooks. Having compiled her own cookbooks of family favorites, this is sure to be another winner.

Caramel apple cake

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups white sugar

3 eggs

1½ teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

1 teaspooon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 cups pared sliced apples

1 cup chopped walnuts, optional

1 tablespoons flour

Beat together oil and sugar; add eggs and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together and add in small amounts. Beat well. Stir in apples. Combine nuts with flour, stir in batter. Pour into a greased and floured 9x13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Remove from oven and immediately spread on topping.

Caramel topping

½ cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

¼ cup milk

Combine ingredients and boil over medium heat for 3 minutes. Spread at once on cake.

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at greenbush4@aol.com.

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