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It is hard to believe that another year is quickly coming to an end. It feels like it was just January 2022, and I was penciling in ideas for the column for the new year. But here we are in Christmas, and all of the preparation in Advent comes to full brilliant beauty with the many diverse ways our communities celebrate this season of the year.

As I pen this column, two thoughts come to mind, thank you and gratitude. Thank you for allowing me to come into your lives and doing my story telling. Mrs. Vonderheide, my 7th grade teacher, started me on this path of gathering stories when she placed a tape recorder on my desk and told me to interview people and gather stories. Hearing these words made me beyond happy. My first interviewer for this assignment was Rose Leibel who owned and operated the Underwood Hotel and Cafe on Main Street for many years. Next came interviews with Glen Iverson, former Underwood Superintendent, Bertha Koenig and Christine Johnson, our neighbors. They were all gracious to this little red headed 7th grader who sat at their tables with a cassette tape recorder and notebook. Their encouragement is still with me.

Gratitude fills me as I reflect on the many opportunities that have been bestowed upon me—from inspiration to keep writing with suggestions for columns and outreach beyond the Magic City. It is always a delight to experience your world through the stories you bring from recipes, china patterns and why lined draperies are still the best accessories any window can have! It is an honor to meet so many interesting and talented cooks and bakers. I recently had the most delightful conversation with a dear lady, Louise, who is still exuberant about egg coffee made in a white enameled coffee pot. I may never have the chance to walk on the red carpet of Hollywood, but honestly stories like these and so many more remind me why a home in North Dakota is truly special and so cozy.

Home includes my wife, Jan and our daughter, Lydia, who daily keep me smiling and now both are excellent proof readers for my writing. Lydia will be graduating this coming spring and heading off to Concordia College; However, that does not mean that she will disappear from the column.

Thinking ahead to your Christmas meals-Have you ever had left over mashed potatoes and wondered how to make them amazing a second time around? Here is some fun information about our table friends. First of all, potatoes are a member of the nightshade family (as our tomato and eggplant). If exposed to light, they can develop a greenish-tinged toxic compound under the skin that may cause illness to sensitive individuals. As you know, unwashed potatoes will keep longer, because the soil helps keep out light. Storing them in a cool place makes them feel loved.

These starchy, tuberous souls with crisp white or yellow flesh and smooth brown, russet, yellow or red skin are remarkably versatile! They can be stylish in several ways including boiled, roasted, fried, baked or barbecued. For this column these will be dressed out as mashed and now let our heart be still. Who does not enjoy and love mashed potatoes? They warmly comfort us through many situations.

This recipe was given to my mom from her sister Ellie, who was a master at any kind of potato. She like to make her potatoes in a kettle with a glass lid, then there was no need to lift the lift to check on them. These were served at our home on New Years Eve when I was 8 years old and I have treasured them every since. My Grandpa Fred, came to the celebration and my mom and Ellie knew that Grandpa Fred had had some form of potato as we ran in the New Year. Thus, the reason extra mashed potatoes were made for the complete meal served earlier.

Again, many thanks for being part of Let’s Cook. To you and your family, I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays that include family food traditions and a thriving, uplifting, and blessed 2023.

Potato Balls

These adored and dazzling potato bites can be served as an appetizer or as part of a meal. We keep them in our freezer and whenever we need a comforting potato fix, we pop a few in the oven.

2 ½ cups or more of left-over mashed potatoes

2 cups of finely crushed cornflakes

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dill weed

1 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

1 egg beaten well

Marbled Jack Cheese Sticks or cheese of choice

Crush cornflakes fine, add garlic powder, dill weed, and Lawry’s salt, blend and set aside. Beat one egg in a small bowl and set aside. Roll left over mashed potatoes into 1 ½ inch ball. Slide in a ½ inch or less of a cheese stick into formed ball and reshape if necessary. Dip ball into beaten egg, roll in cornflake mixture. Bake in oven at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

They are delicious served alone or with a sauce of choice. They can be made ahead and frozen and baked at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.

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