Back when I was a little kid with skinned knees, freckles, and cowlicks, I always wanted to know what we were going to have for supper, and this chicken and these potatoes were the stars of one of my favorite summer meals. Along with fresh greens and corn-on-the-cob from our garden, this supper was made over and over again in the warmer months.

Mom marinated the chicken in this sweet and sour sauce all day — I can’t remember ever seeing a bottle of store-bought barbecue sauce in our cupboards.

To grill the chicken, my dad built a fire in the outdoor fireplace he had constructed himself. He never used charcoal, always opting for burning wood until the coals were just right. Perhaps the fire took longer to be ready for cooking, but the way the food tasted was well worth it.

Our family loved the accompanying potatoes cooked Dad’s summer-time way, with their beautifully browned skins and fluffy soft insides. Sometimes they were wrapped in bacon or sometimes Mom just placed a sliver of butter and onion between each slice and added garlic salt and pepper before wrapping the potatoes tightly in foil.

At the time, had we ever heard of Hassleback Potatoes, supposedly created at a hotel in Sweden a very long time ago? We simply knew them as Dad’s potatoes and thought he was a very clever guy.

Dad placed these spuds right into the coals and after they got a head-start, he called for me to bring him the platter of chicken, which he watched over and basted with the sauce until it was cooked to perfection. Our delicious summer meal was often served on the screened-in patio while the sky became pink with the glow of another good day coming to a close.

For dessert, there were slices of watermelon, strawberry shortcake, or toasted marshmallows. It was after I had moved away from home that I discovered this delightfully cool and creamy refrigerator dessert with the crust reminiscent of Keebler Pecan Sandies cookies.

I first sampled this when my former co-worker, Naomi made it for an employee picnic. I cherish the recipe card written in her loopy hand-writing and remember her for her unflappable feistiness and salt-and-pepper pixie cut.

Every time I make this dessert, I think of her.

Although my favorite pudding flavor for this dessert is chocolate, butterscotch or lemon is delicious, too. You can also use vanilla pudding and fold in fresh berries or peaches, or just layer fruit on top. And if you don’t want to use Cool-Whip, whipped cream works just fine in this recipe.

Besides the Hassleback Potatoes, which are even more delicious dolled up with sour cream and a hefty sprinkling of cheddar cheese, there are probably fancier names for these recipes, but who cares? Let’s just get together this Memorial Day weekend and have something good to eat.

(If it rains, which it tends to do on this holiday, the chicken and potatoes can be baked at 375 degrees in the oven. Allow 1 hour and 15 minutes for the potatoes and about 45-60 minutes for the chicken.)

No matter what the weather, let’s be grateful for time spent with our families and for the millions of service men and women who have dedicated their lives to keeping us safe.

Happy Memorial Day from the cove!

Mom’s Grilled Chicken
1 (10.75 ounce) can tomato soup
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white or apple-cider vinegar
1 small onion, diced
Salt & pepper to taste
12 chicken drumsticks and/or thighs
Whisk all ingredients together to combine. Marinate chicken for several hours or overnight. Grill on a 375-degree gas grill or over hot coals until skin is crisp and temperature at meatiest point of chicken is 180 degrees when checked with a meat thermometer. Yield: 4-6 servings

Dad’s Summer Potatoes
6 russet potatoes
1 small onion, thinly sliced
6 slices bacon
Grated cheese and sour cream for garnish, optional
Scrub potatoes and pat dry. Cut in slices nearly all the way through. Place on squares of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Wrap each potato with a slice of bacon and season with pepper. Wrap tightly, sealing at the seams and ends.
Place on hot gas grill set at 375 degrees or in white-hot coals for 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes, taking care not to puncture foil. Cook until potatoes are golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside. Yield: 6 servings

Naomi’s Ribbon Dessert
1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 1/4 sticks butter, diced
Mix all ingredients together in a buttered 9-by-12-inch glass baking pan. Firmly press mixture in bottom of pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool.

Bottom Layer:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 (16-ounce) container Cool-Whip, reserve some for topping
Combine sugar and cream cheese with 1 cup Cool Whip. Spread onto cooled crust.

Middle Layer:
2 (3.9-ounce) pkgs. instant chocolate pudding
2 cups cold milk
Combine with an electric mixer. Spread on top of cream cheese layer. You can keep going with other flavors of pudding and more layers, if you would like!
Spread a generous layer of Cool Whip on top and garnish with chopped nuts, grated chocolate, chocolate syrup or sprinkles. Chill until pudding is set. Yield: 10 servings

Your questions and comments are always welcome and will be answered. Send your letters to [email protected] or in care of the Coastal Journal.

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