Tuesday, March 29, 2022

A Culinary Evolution: Be My Guest

Be My Guest, guest post blog writing series | graphic designed by, featured on, and property of www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics #blogging

I must be a bad hostess. Let's make that a really bad hostess. It's been, after all, 2 years since my friend Rena has been my guest. Literally 2 years. Almost to the day. 

But I must have done something right, because last month, this veteran traveler informed me of her travel plans, and it was too my front door. Well, my blog's front door, anyway.
Blogging connects people who are worlds apart, and not just literally. You'd think Rena and I would have nothing in common (the woman likes sleeping in tents, for g-d's sake. Deliberately), she's been known to half cook a turkey, and once almost burned her kitchen down.
Bottom line, though, Rena has a heart of gold. We've worked together and supported each other through some really difficult times. She was her mother's caregiver for 10 years. We've both lost a parent to Alzheimer's. 
Covid has forced Rena to back off of her love of travel, but she's maintained her Alzheimer's support website and her Technology Therapist business. What's given me great pleasure, however, is watching her evolution into the world of culinary arts. Rarely-cooks-Rena started growing her own vegetables. This year she's germinating seeds indoors. She'll be growing vegetables and herbs, is planning a greenhouse and I think I even heard her mention raising chickens!
And now she's tried a recipe of her own, based on one from her mom. These are the best recipes in my opinion, ones that honor the past while adding touches of the present. But I'll let Rena tell you about it:

 Worst Cook in America . . . Did I Win?
Kick Ass Potato Salad by Rena of Diary of an Alzheimer's Caregiver | featured on www.BakingInATornado.com

Some people are awesome cooks (I'm looking at you, Karen). Some people are terrific at organization {{side-eye look at Karen}}. I'm neither, often those two things collide head on with many, many MANY unsuccessful attempts.

I get my superb cooking skills from my momma. She was the Queen of boxed food, and she never met a can she didn't like. Do you think I'm joking? Take a look at a general week of dinners in my house growing up:
1. Sun - out to eat
2. Mon - cheeseburger & ff
3. Tues cheeseburger & ff (once in a while this turned into chli)
4. Wed - fried fish & ff
5. Thurs - cheeseburger & ff
6. Fri - cheeseburger & ff (sometimes this was turned into a meatloaf)
7. Sat - eat out
Everything she cooked was deep fried in an old industrial deep fryer. She NEVER changed the grease! She'd also keep a bowl of flour in the drawer for breading that she used over and over again. Everything that was fried on the stove came with a spoon of grease from the deep fryer!

Honestly, I'm not sure how we survived, but no wonder I left home at 15 and the only thing I could make was . . . you guessed it . . . a cheeseburger! I managed to fumble my way through the kitchen while the kids were growing up, but nothing was exciting. Bland. To me, cooking was another chore that had to be done, and it was often speed that made the choice of the menu.

Today, I've been happily married for 31 years, and over the years we spent a lot of time and money in restaurants, but since Covid I no longer want to sit in a crowded restaurant (especially here in the South).

I had a few recipes that I learned from mom and one of them was potato salad. Her version was potato, egg, celery, miracle whip, relish, and mustard. Eatable, but again, bland. So earlier this year I was looking for some new shows to watch, found Guy's Grocery Games, and was hooked. Not by what they were cooking, but by teaching me about all of those mysterious ingredients that I was always curious about.

After I binged that show, I wanted to find something similar that would inspire me in the kitchen, found Worst Cooks in America, and that light bulb went off. See, I've been watching cooking show by pros like Pioneer Woman, but the problem is they are pros, so for someone like me, it's often overwhelming and confusing.
WCIA (Worst Cooks in America is an ego boost first and foremost, because I've never been as bad as a lot of the participants. They ask the questions I've always wanted to know but was too embarrassed to ask. They teach the basics first, and I love that part.

As a matter of fact, since WCIA, I have been making some amazing new recipes that I never thought I'd try, and loved them. Not all have worked out, but the good outweighs the bad. It's given me confidence in the kitchen that I never knew I could have.

I needed a test. I decided to make over momma's potato salad, and this is what I did:
Kick Ass Potato Salad by Rena of Diary of an Alzheimer's Caregiver | featured on www.BakingInATornado.com
Kick Ass Potato Salad
1. Boil eggs (depends on the amount of people you're feeding, 8 - 10 for a large batch, or 4 - 6 for a smaller batch).
2. Cut & cube 4 - 6 potatoes, put them in salted water, and bring to a boil. This can be tricky because you don't want them hard, but you don't want them too soft either because then you'd have mashed potato salad . . . hmmmmmm.
3. Slice half of a Vidalia onion and dice up (more or less to taste).
4. In a bowl, add sliced celery (1 - 2 cups for a large batch, 1 for a smaller batch.
5. Add in 2 cups Miracle Whip (may need a little more or less).
6. Add in 3 TBSP mustard for a large batch, or 1 1/2 TBSP for a smaller batch.
7. Dice 4 - 6 Sweet Gherkin pickles. Add them along with 1 TBSP juice from the pickles.
8. Add 1 tsp salt (to taste).
9. Add 1/2 tsp pepper (to taste).
10. Add 1 TBSP celery seed.
11. Add 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper.
12. Add 1/2 tsp of onion powder.
13. Add 1/2 tsp paprika.
14. Mix together. Sprinkle with additional cayenne pepper and paprika. 
15. Store any leftovers, covered, in the refrigerator.

My husband was never a great fan of the old potato salad, but LOVES this version. He said it was the best he'd ever eaten, but then again, he sleeps with me so he may not be impartial.

Let me know what you think!

~ Me again:
I told you a little about Rena at the beginning of this post, but I wanted to give you a few specifics:
You can visit The Diary of an Alzheimer's Caregiver for information and support (and the blog section features her creative writing).
Whether you have a blog or website, or are interested in building one, she offers website maintenance, management, hosting, and more at Technology-Therapist.
And you can follow her of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Reach out to her, she's easily approachable.
Thank you so much for being here, Rena. Now don't be a stranger!

Baking In A Tornado signature | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Kick Ass Potato Salad       
                                                                                      ©Rena, The Diary of an Alzheimer's Caregiver

NOTE: the amount of each ingredients depends on whether you are making a large or small batch, and are easily adjusted according to taste

8 - 10 eggs for a large batch, 4 - 6 for a smaller batch
4 - 6 potatoes
1/2 Vidalia onion
1 - 2 cups sliced celery for large batch, 1 cup for smaller batch
about 2 cups Miracle Whip (more or less to taste)
3 TBSP mustard for large batch, 1 1/2 TBSP for smaller batch
4 - 6 Sweet Gherkin pickles
1 TBSP Sweet Gherkin pickle juice
about 1 tsp salt (to taste)
about 1/2 tsp pepper (to taste)
1 TBSP celery seed
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder 
1/2 tsp paprika
additional cayenne pepper and paprika for top
*Boil the eggs to hard boiled. Cool and chop. 
*Cube the potatoes, place in salted water, bring to a boil just until they start to soften. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
*In a large bowl, mix together the potatoes, eggs, onion, celery, Miracle Whip, mustard, pickles, pickle juice, salt, pepper, celery seed, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, onion powder, and 1/2 tsp paprika.
*Sprinkle additional cayenne pepper and paprika over the top. 
*Store any leftovers, covered, in the refrigerator.


  1. This recipe makes me sad that I don't have a reason to make a batch of potato salad. It would take forever for the two of us to get through even the small recipe.

  2. There's so much I could comment on, but I'll stick to the potato salad. The "before" recipe sounds a lot like the potato salad my late aunt, who was born and raised near Tulsa, OK, used to make but hers was delicious. It definitely had Miracle Whip in it, something that I don't think the Northeast U.S. (where I live) has gotten into the same way as Midwesterners have. Having said that, the older I get, the more partial I get toward German potato salad, which doesn't have either mayonnaise or Miracle Whip. You did bring back memories of a beloved aunt, Rena, and I thank you, Karen, for publishing this guest post. Alana ramblinwitham.blogspot.com

    1. I was honored to have Rena trust me with the first recipe she developed.

  3. Cooking is a talent that can be developed, and it sounds like Ms. Rena is doing just that, good for her!

    1. She is, and I'm having just as much fun watching her process and progress as she is living it.

  4. Rena/Karen, thank you so much for this! I love a success story and this is definitely one of those! I never thought to add pickles to my potato salad. Brilliant!
    Gonna give this one a try!
    I love you both!

  5. I love cooking but I'm picky...so picky. lol My daughter calls me picky too but I'm really not, I just know what I like and don't like.

    I love making potato salad but mine if different because I don't like raw onions. So no onions and no miracle whip for me. Miracle whip isn't allowed in my home. Nope. lol I do add pickles to mine but they are dill.

    Other things I don't use while cooking are garlic, garlic powder and red onions.
    I love yellow onions and like cooked onions but the only thing I use raw onions in is my salsa. And they have to be diced so small. So small. it's fun to experiment with recipes though. You do you and have fun with it.

    1. Not that there's anything wrong with knowing what you like, but I'm with your daughter, you're picky.

  6. How did I freaking forget?! I was looking forward to it for weeks! I love this and you ...and Diane! You guys are remarkable friends! Last night I made my very first solo beef stir fry with completely fresh veggies and flank steak and it was AMAZING! I even made a CORNISH HEN last week! I also have onion sprouts, potatoes and strawberries already coming on and we put carrots, broccoli, cucumbers and the greenbeans in the ground this past weekend! I get so excited haha! Sorry I'm so late hope you forgive me!

    1. Nothing to forgive, clearly you've been busy. Very, very busy. ❤ you!


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