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Grandma’s Triple Top-Secret Potato Salad – Revealed!

31 Dec

People are passionate about their potato salad. Everybody claims they have the “best” recipe – either their own, or their mom’s, or their grandma’s, or what have you. Individual potato salads are subject to strict critique by the consumers. They might say outright, “This is good, but it’s not as good as such-and-so’s,” or they admit, “This is the best darned potato salad I ever did eat!” Or they internally scrutinize and judge and analyze just what might that secret ingredient be that they detect.


If you make a good one, you know it because it’s requested for every family dinner and every potluck, and it disappears quickly. If you make a bad one, you know it because you have leftovers when the day is done.


My childhood summers featured this dish very prominantly. My grandmother would make a batch just about every week, and I have to tell you (get ready), it IS the best recipe and IS the best potato salad you’re ever going to eat. And it took me a long time to perfect it. You see, this recipe had no measurements. Just a list of ingredients whose amounts you would add and adjust and taste and assess throughout the process of making the potato salad. I don’t know how Grandma made it EXACTLY the same every time, but she did.


I made a batch tonight, and as I went along I tried to note just how much of each ingredient I used. I probably don’t have it exactly right here, but I’m taking a shot at it. Your experience and preference may vary, so feel free to adjust the amounts toward your preference. Like a “yellower” potato salad? Add more mustard! Like it a little dryer? Add less mayo! Like it a bit more tangy? Add more vinegar!

You catch my drift. Okay, here goes!


Grandma’s Triple Top-Secret Potato Salad – Revealed!


– 5 lbs yellow or golden potatoes
– 4 stalks celery
– 1/2 of a medium sweet onion
– 5 eggs
– 2/3 of a 32 oz jar of mayo… what is that, about 21 oz? Almost three cups? Let’s just say three cups – we like our potato salad “wet”. (Yes dears, that’s what I said… THREE CUPS OF MAYO. What, you didn’t come here for HEALTHY food, did you?)
– 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
– 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
– 3 heaping tbsp sweet pickle relish
– 3 heaping tbsp yellow mustard
– 2 tbsp sugar
– 1 tbsp onion powder
– salt and pepper to taste (the potatoes absorb the salt, so don’t be shy with it!)

Peel all the potatoes, cut them in half, and place in a large pot. Cover with water about 2″ above the potatoes, splash in a bit of vegetable oil, and throw in a couple of tablespoons of salt. Boil until fork-tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. Drain and allow to cool.

While the potatoes are boiling, hard-boil the eggs (I keep them at a rolling boil for fifteen minutes). Drain and allow to cool.

While you’re waiting for the potatoes and eggs to cool, chop the celery and the onion and place them in a very large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayo, oil, vinegar, relish, mustard, sugar, onion powder, salt and pepper.

When the potatoes and eggs are cool, roughly chop them (about 3/4 inch pieces for the taters, smaller for the eggs), and add to the bowl with the celery and onion. Pour the dressing over the vegetables, and gently fold to incorporate without mushing up the potatoes. Pour from mixing bowl into a large serving dish. Cover and chill for at least 8 hours, or overnight. Makes at least 6-8 servings.

You will die of the taste sensation, I guar-an-tee.

Lamb Stew

28 Jan

2 pounds lamb stew meat, with fat
1 cup red wine
3-4 cups lamb broth*
Butter and olive oil
1 small can tomato paste
several sprigs fresh rosemary and thyme, tied together
2 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
2-3 whole cloves
1 teaspoon dried green peppercorns, crushed
2-3 small pieces fresh orange peel
1 pound small red potatoes
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into strips
2 tablespoons corn starch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

Marinate lamb in wine for several hours or overnight. Remove from wine and dry pieces very well with paper towels. In a heavy flame proof stock pot, brown stew meat on all sides, a few pieces at a time, in butter and olive oil, removing to a plate for subsequent batches.

When all meat is browned, pour out browning fat and add wine used for marinade and broth* to the stock pot. Bring to a rolling boil and skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Reduce heat and add browned meat, tomato paste, herbs, garlic, cloves, peppercorns and orange peel.  Stir to combine, and transfer to a heavy casserole dish.

Place in a 350 degree oven and cook for two hours. Add potatoes and cook for an additional hour.  Add carrots and cook for an additional 30 minutes.  Just before serving, transfer to the stove and over a medium flame, stir in the corn starch mixture to thicken the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

*Okay, so who’s ever heard of lamb broth?  Gotta love these old recipes.  Chicken or pork broth works just as well here.

** This recipe was updated on 2/9/08 to clarify some instructions.

Bleu Cheese Spread

25 Jan

8 oz. cream cheese, room temp
6 oz. bleu cheese
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. grated onion
1-2 tbsp. mayonnaise (to taste)

Mix all ingredients together, adding the mayo 1/2 tbsp at a time until mixture is creamy. Serve over crackers or use to stuff celery stalks.

This stuff was a fixture during holidays at Grandma’s. I will be the only person in my household who will eat it, and I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER.

Magic Cookie Bars

25 Jan

– 1/2 cup margerine or butter
– 1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
– 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
– 1 (6 oz.) package semi-sweet chocolate chips (mini chips work great)
– 1 1/3 cup flaked coconut
– 1 cup chopped nuts – the more finely chopped the better, I like to use half hazelnut and half walnut.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 for a glass dish). In a 13X9 inch baking pan, melt margerine in oven. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over margerine. Mix together and press into pan. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumbs. Top evenly with chocolate chips, then coconut, then nuts. Press down firmly. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting.

(Updated 12/26/10)

Zucchini Bread

25 Jan

Same as the carrot cake, this recipe was pulled out to take care of the abundance of leftover zucchini from the garden. Yes, even after making a batch of relish. And same as the pumpkin bread, this was wrapped in aluminum foil and distributed among the worthy. Excellent with a spread of cream cheese.

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini (unpeeled)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3 cups unsifted flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

Mix in order that ingredients are given. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, or until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Use either a 3 quart bundt pan or 8×5 loaf pans.

Salmon Loaf

25 Jan

I. Love. This. Stuff. I’ve never made it for my family, because the very name makes them poo-pooh it. It’s not “fishy” or anything like that. It’s rich and delicate and awesome. This was a frequent winter dinner at Grandma’s house. She’d serve it with a cream sauce, but I liked it plain. We’d usually either have scalloped potatoes or rice pilaf along with it.

(Edited 3/22/08 to clarify and adjust some ingredients for better outcome.)

– 1 1 lb can red salmon, drained and flaked (reserve liquid)
– 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
– salt and pepper to taste
– 3 tbsp. lemon juice
– 2 tbsp. grated onion
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 3 tbsp. chopped FRESH parsley (1 tbsp dried is fine, but fresh is better)
– 1 tsp dill
1 cup soft bread crumbs (I coarsely grate fresh bread)
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Drain salmon, reserve liquid in small bowl. Flake salmon into a medium bowl. Mix thoroughly with butter. Season with salt, pepper, onion, lemon juice, parsley, garlic, and dill.

In a separate bowl, soak bread crumbs in milk. Add the beaten eggs and mix well. Add bread mixture to salmon mixture and combine well. If the mixture seems too dry, add reserved liquid from canned salmon a little bit at a time until desired consistency.

Thoroughly grease a casserole dish (8×8, 9×9, or 10×10). Spoon mixture evenly into casserole and bake for 45 minutes at 325 degrees. Serve from casserole dish, or loosen edges and turn onto a platter.

salmon loaf

Rhubarb Sour Cream Cake

25 Jan

This, along with strawberry rhubarb pie, made an appearance every July. I associate it with my birthday and trips to Reid State Park (and battles with the black flies). Rhubarb sure is an odd vegetable, but do not discount it because of its oddity!!! It becomes sweet/tart with the massive amounts of sugar.

4 cups cut rhubarb
1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Bean in egg and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir into butter mixture. Fold in rhubarb and sour cream. Spoon batter into greased 13×9 baking pan. Combine sugar and nutmeg, sprinkle over batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Cool on rack. Serve with whipped cream.

Lemon Squares

25 Jan

Yer basic lemon squares…

2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1/2 cup Crisco or other shortening
3 eggs
4 tbsp lemon juice (also works well with orange juice, lime juice, or probably any other kind of juice you fancy)
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder

Cut shortening and butter into 2 cups flour and powdered sugar until crumbly. Press into bottom of greased 9×13 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden.

Blend eggs and lemon juice, set aside. Combine sugar, 1/4 cup flour, and powder. Add egg mixture and blend well. Pour over crust and bake 20-25 minutes, until set.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

25 Jan

The neighbor would usually have a ton of carrots left over from their garden. You ever seen the Bugs Bunny episode where he’s in Jack and the Beanstalk, and he wakes up among carrots the size of trees? These were those kind of carrots. They’d deliver a bunch to Grammy, and Grammy would put some of them into a couple of batches of cake. One cake would go to the neighbors, who would usually give back some sort of preserves made from the proceeds of their garden.

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
3 cups uncooked grated carrots

Mix oil, sugar and eggs in a large bowl, beat until creamy. Sift together flour, cinnamon, salt, soda, and baking powder. Add gradually to first mixture, beat until well combined. Fold in pecans and carrots. Bake in 9×13 cake pan at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1 stick oleo (I had to look this up, it’s just a stick of butter or margarine. What the hell is oleo?? Thank God for Ask Jeeves.)
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla (the original recipe didn’t call for this, I like it with vanilla)
dash salt

Cream together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Gradually add sugar and salt. Mix well, until good spreading consistency. Spread thickly on cooled cake.

Melt in Your Mouth Blueberry Cake

25 Jan

Don’t you just love the names of some of these recipes? This is an awesome recipe that Grandma would make during blueberry season. There was a huge bank of blueberry bushes near our house, and we’d go out in the long twilight with our baskets and pick these enormous blueberries. Two for the basket, one for the mouth. Two for the basket, one for the mouth. She and I would both come home with hands and mouths stained with blueberry juice. Our arms and legs, too – from slapping at the mosquitos with our stained hands.

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
2 egg whites
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Beat 2 egg whites and add 1/4 cup sugar, set aside. Cream 1/2 cup shortening, add remaining sugar and mix well. Add 2 egg yolks, beat until creamy. Add vanilla and salt. Sift flour and baking powder, add alternately with 1/3 cup milk. Fold in blueberries (carefully! don’t mush ’em!). Carefully fold in egg white mixture. Pour mixture into greased 8×8 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.