A few weeks ago, after waking up to snow, I decided to curl up and read through pages of recollections typed after hosting Thanksgiving through the years — who attended, and what I prepared with grades attached in case there was a recipe worth remembering to repeat the following year, or one I never wanted to make again anytime in the future. It was an interesting read, yet I wish I had recorded much more about parties when the boys were very young and their shenanigans that would be worth laughing about today. It would also have been an eye opener of how amazing moms are at times by understanding and enduring the unimaginable. If you haven’t already captured holidays gone by, begin now. It’s family history in all of its glory that you might treasure in the years ahead.

After stuffing turkeys to roast to perfection, it’s time to move on to baked chop suey and crunchy noodle memories from the past when reader Shirley B.’s request featured Nov. 8 drew a response from Mary Meister, Reedsburg. As a Madison General Hospital nursing school graduate, she reached for the hospital’s 1982 cookbook.

Baked chop suey

1 ½ pounds ground beef

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped celery

1 can cream of mushroom soup

¼ cup uncooked rice

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 cup water

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 cup Chinese noodles

Brown beef, combine onions, celery, soup, rice, soy sauce water, Worcestershire sauce and ½ cup Chinese noodles. Place in 1 quart casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 1 ½ hours having removed from the oven to top with remaining ½ cup noodles during the last 10 minutes.

Serves 4-6

Responses that followed become lessons of how, adding or changing a single ingredient, and method of preparation can make a big difference at times. Janet Kowing, Madison, copied her recipe from the Montrose Budget Buster’s Club cookbook compiled with favorites in celebration of the America’s 1776-1976 Bicentennial year.

Baked chopped suey

1 pound hamburger

2 tablespoons fat

2 medium onions, chopped

1 cup celery, finely chopped

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 ½ cups warm water

½ cup uncooked rice

¼ cup (or less) soy sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Chow mein noodles

Brown hamburger in fat. Add remaining ingredients rinsing cans of soup with water. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Cover with chow mein noodles and bake 15 minutes more.

Note: Kowing always adds a can of chop suey vegetables.

Wilma Furseth, Stoughton, claims that although her recipe looks “soupy,” rice will thicken the texture and it turns out just fine.

Baked chop suey 1977

2 pounds ground beef

1 cup chopped onion

1 ½ cups chopped celery

10 ounce can cream of chicken soup and 1 can of water

10-ounce can cream of mushroom soup plus 1 can of water

1 cup raw rice

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 can Chinese mixed vegetables, undrained

Brown ground beef. Boil onion and celery in a bit of water. Add beef, soup and water, raw rice, soy sauce and undrained Chinese vegetables. Put in a 9x13-inch pan and bake for 1 ½ hours, the first 20 minutes at 425 degrees, then the remainder of time at 350 degrees.

Karen Kroll’s response arrived as chow mein casserole, her mom’s recipe and a family favorite made and enjoyed through the years. Kroll confesses that it is a favorite of her husband because there are always leftovers to enjoy the following day.

Oven chow mein

1 pound ground beef

1 can bean sprouts, drained

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup chopped celery

1 green pepper, chopped

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can cream of mushroom soup

Large can of chow mein noodles

Brown ground beef; drain off fat. Add drained bean sprouts, onions, celery, and green pepper. Add soups, mix everything together, and heat for about 10 minutes until nicely blended. Put about half of the chow mein noodles in 9x13-inch pan. Add the cooked mixture and put remaining noodles on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes.

Another “favorite” recipe arrived from Mary Marty who mentioned that it was given to her by her best friend, Adele, in 1959. Because her children have grown up and moved away, Marty hasn’t made this for many years, but she is happy she could share it with others.

Baked chopped suey

1 pound ground beef

1 cup chopped celery

2 medium-size onions, chopped

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

2 cups water

½ cup uncooked rice

4 tablespoons soy sauce

1 can chow mein noodles

Brown ground beef in a Dutch oven using medium heat on the top of the stove. Skim off excess fat from the ground beef and add the rest of the ingredients, except for chow mein noodles, to the pot. Bake covered in a 400 degree oven for 1 ½ hours. Add chow mein noodles on the top, and lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake uncovered for another 1 ½ hours.

This recipe, with a twist in name, is a favorite made often by Joann Sherven Foss from the cookbook “50 Years of Regal Recipes; 1945-1995,” compiled and published by Regal Ware Employees.

Chinese hamburger casserole

4-ounce can sliced mushrooms

1 can water chestnuts, sliced

1 pound ground beef

10-can cream of chicken soup

10-ounce can cream of mushroom soup

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 ½ cups thick sliced celery

2 medium onions, sliced thick

½ cup uncooked rice

1 can crisp Chinese noodles

Drain liquid from mushrooms and water chestnuts and add enough water to make 1 cup liquid; set aside. Brown meat in 12-inch fry pan; add liquid and remaining ingredients, except for noodles. Pour into 2-quart baking dish. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes. Sprinkle top with noodles and return to oven for 15 minutes.

6-8 servings

The recipe finale today was shared by Sherie Sasso who found it in “Compositions for Cooking, Opus II,” an exceptional collection of recipes from the Madison Symphony Orchestra League published in 1979. Although the recipe has a different title, it was a favorite of Joyce Dreyfus, wife of our former Wisconsin Governor Lee Sherman Dreyfus. It also happens to be the one Sasso’s mother made often while she was growing up.

Oriental hash

1 ½ pounds ground beef

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup cooked rice

¼ cup soy sauce

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can cream of mushroom soup

½ soup can water

1 can Chinese noodles

Brown meat in butter. Add onion and celery and cook until tender. Add remaining ingredients, except noodles; mix well. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Sprinkle noodles on top and bake 10 minutes longer.

Serves 4-6…”and more”

Bottom line here is that chop suey is a mid-19th century Chinese-American dish that does not exist in China.

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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