TUPELO • Even though Helga Ashby’s mother was a wonderful German cook, Ashby didn’t get interested in cooking until after she married some 50 years ago.
“As I got older, I learned mother’s recipes for sour cherry pie, cheesecake, stuffed peppers, goulash and German potato salad,” Ashby said. “She also did strudel and spaetzle and dumplings, but I don’t do any of that.”
Ashby and her younger sister, Inge, were born in Linz, Austria. Their mother, Susie Sorg Wagner, escaped Yugoslavia with other Germans during World War II and later married a German soldier.
“We lived in Austria until I was 5 and then my family moved to Millville, Pennsylvania, where we were sponsored by Quakers,” Ashby said. “Mom was 26 and Dad was 30. They had $10, a trunk and two kids.”
Ashby was raised in Pennsylvania and went to work there. She came home one day and found a young man in the house with her mother, trying to sell her a dictionary.
“When I went in, he tried to sell me the dictionary,” Ashby said. “I told him I had a perfectly good Funk & Wagnalls and I didn’t need one. We got to talking and he asked me if I liked to go bowling – he wanted to take me to a birthday party. I told him I thought he looked harmless enough – he rode a bicycle – so I went.”
She and the young man, Ron, dated two years before they married and moved to North Carolina, where Ashby was on her own in the kitchen.
“I had a basic Better Homes & Gardens cookbook that I used a lot,” she said. “The first thing I made was a tuna casserole. I also got lots of recipes from friends. We were all in the same boat – nobody had any money.”
The Ashbys, who have three children and seven grandchildren, moved to Tupelo in 2000. Her mother moved with them; she died in 2016.
“I used to cook a meat and two vegetables for supper, but I don’t do that much anymore,” Ashby said. “Now we have things like beef stew, or beef stroganoff or jambalaya. In fact, at Thanksgiving last year, I made jambalaya because that’s what my daughter wanted.”
This year, Ashby doesn’t have to worry about cooking. She and Ron will spend Thanksgiving at Ron’s brother’s house.
“They’ll do the main meal,” she said. “I’ll probably just take an hors d’oeuvre.”
SOUR CHERRY PIE
3 cans sour cherries, drained
1 pie shell, unbaked
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, sliced
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick butter, sliced
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and put rack in center of oven.
Place drained cherries in the unbaked pie crust. Sprinkle with sugar and dot with butter.
For the topping, combine sugar, flour and sliced butter and mix together. Sprinkle topping over pie and into crevices.
Bake for 10 minutes. Lower temperature to 375 degrees and bake an additional 40 minutes or until bubbling. If needed, place foil over crust so it doesn’t get too dark.
HOT CHICKEN SALAD
2 cups cooked, diced chicken
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 tablespoons minced onion (optional)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 1/2 cups crushed potato chips, divided
Combine chicken, soup, onion, if using, lemon juice, almonds and 1 cup crushed potato chips. Pour into a greased casserole. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup potato chips on top. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Serves 6.
SUSIE’S GERMAN POTATO SALAD
2 pounds russet potatoes
12 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Boil potatoes until tender. Drain and slice in 1/4-inch slices. Place potatoes in a greased serving dish.
In a skillet, cook bacon until crispy; remove bacon, leaving 6 tablespoons fat in pan. Add onion and saute until soft. Stir in vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Heat to boiling. Add bacon.
Pour onion and bacon mixture over potatoes and toss lightly.
2 pork tenderloins
4 strips lean bacon
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons grated onion
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
Dash of pepper
Wrap each tenderloin with 2 pieces of bacon and place in a shallow dish. Combine soy sauce, onion, vinegar, sugar, garlic and pepper and pour over tenderloins. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes or until done, basting with pan juices.
CHOCOLATE CHERRY CAKE
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 stick butter, melted
1 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 can cherry pie filling
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
5 tablespoons butter
1 cup chocolate chips
In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, butter, almond flavoring and eggs. Mix by hand. Fold in cherry pie filling. Pour into a greased 9x13-inch baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.
For the icing, combine sugar, milk and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips until melted. Spread over cake while it’s still warm.
DATE NUT BREAD
1 pound dates, chopped
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped nuts (optional)
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
Place dates in a large bowl. Add soda and boiling water. Let mixture cool until just warm. Add butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, nuts, if using, and flour. Beat hard. Divide mixture among 5 small greased loaf pans, filling each 1/2 full. Bake at 375 degrees for about 50 minutes. Do not overbake. Keeps well in refrigerator.
BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 to 1/2 cup Texas Pete’s hot sauce
1/2 cup ranch dressing
3 cups diced rotisserie chicken or 3 cans canned chicken
2 cups shredded Mexican-style shredded cheese, divided
Crackers or pita chips
Stir together cream cheese and hot sauce until well blended. Add ranch dressing, chicken and 1 cup shredded cheese and mix well (you can use a hand mixer).
Spread mixture into a greased 9x13-inch baking dish and top with the remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with crackers or pita chips.
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sugar
Dash of salt
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 pounds cottage cheese
1 can cherry or blueberry pie filling
For the crust, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, butter and cinnamon. Reserve 3/4 cup. Press the rest of the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a greased springform pan.
For the filling, beat eggs and sugar lightly. Add salt, flour, lemon juice, cream and cottage cheese. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Top with reserved 3/4 cup of crumb mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Turn oven off and let cake sit 1 hour with the door open. Top with pie filling.