Pioneer Potluck: About living in Poudre Canyon

Pioneer Potluck: About living in Poudre Canyon

This week’s recipes: salad dressing cake, hamburger stew, smoked candy salmon strips

  • Tuesday, July 30, 2019 9:01pm
  • Life

Fort Collins, Colorado, 1962

In about 1962-63 Jack and I bought a place in Poudre Canyon, on the west side of Fort Collins. I wanted to live “in the mountains.”

We moved our meager belongings and three kids to this cute little place with one bedroom, a large fireplace that smoked, and a closet that housed a tin washtub for bathing. We had to heat water on the cook stove, which came up from the Poudre River by a pump that was turned on at the house.

I washed clothes in a Maytag wringer washing machine out on the small cement porch. I enjoyed this very much. I wish I had that old washing machine back!!

The house was built over a big rock, a guest cabin and a one-room cabin for fishermen.

There also was a big dugout cellar dug from the side of the mountain that a big, big bull snake claimed his own. There were creatures everywhere — mountain lions, deer and wild burros (mules) and lots of squirrels. Also, every bird you can imagine!

And it had its share of rattlesnakes. I kept constant watch for the scary snakes. I always had a big stick or hoe by the outside door that I carried everywhere. The bull snake, so they told me, kept the rattlesnakes away. I think a snake is a snake and probably one very good reason I have lived in Alaska for 52 years!

I loved that place, but it was very difficult living in the winter. We hauled slabs from a wood sawmill not to far from us for a fire in the fireplace that continually smoked. We installed a glass door to the front of it — it still smoked. Our other heat was a little fuel oil heater.

I worked at Poudre Valley Hospital on the west side of Fort Collins. But first I had to drop Gail at school in La Porte and then I traveled across town to the babysitter for David and Susan. Then onto Poudre Valley Hospital. I was learning to be a medical transcriber. It’s a job that required a lot of concentration and book learning.

Jack worked as a parts man for my dad’s John Deere Store in Fort Collins. Our jobs and kids in school required us to be up early, get dressed, and travel 12 miles (I think) down the canyon to La Porte to put Gail, age 6, in first grade. David and Susan, age 4 and 3, had a very nice babysitter in Fort Collins. I dropped them off and continued to the east side of town to Pourdre Valley Hospital for a job I loved, but was very challenging. The reverse pattern when it came time for me to get off work was followed. The summer days were magnificent, driving back up the canyon, and the snow was beautiful but nerve-racking at times. I drove a four-door green Dodge from about 1955 — good car for the traveling we did.

In the summer, we met a dear lady named Marie Bean who lived farther up the canyon from us. On my days off she would invite me and the kids to a game of Yahtzee. She always had dessert of some kind — homemade ice cream sandwiches, big yummy cookies or this wonderful salad dressing cake. She sent big hunks of it home with us. She was a retired teacher and taught the kids and me the game of Yahtzee. I learned this fun game, which I still like to play on my iPad. She taught the kids how to count.

Wonderful memories of a grand lady!! With the help of her sons Dell and Blake, I am honored to have this recipe!

I wondered what happened to Marie’s salad dressing recipe and wrote to her son Dell Bean in Fort Collins.

Here is the recipe:

Salad Dressing Cake

1 cup sugar

2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3 tablespoons cocoa

1 cup salad dressing (Miracle Whip)

1 cup warm water

Vanilla (but she didn’t say how much).

Dell noted: “There was nothing else on the card so you may have to play with it a bit.”

Here’s what I can add to the recipe:

Bake in a 9 x 13-inch dish at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. This is a guess, so test with a toothpick before you remove it from the oven. Frost with your favorite canned frosting. We like cream cheese frosting, but we also like the fudge frosting. It is very good without frosting, served with a big dollop of whipped cream. My dad loved it for his midnight snack. He crumbled the cake in a glass with real thick cream from Bessy, our old milk cow, then sprinkled with sugar. He would stir and stir, and eat it with a spoon. I did not develop a taste for this, but Dad always offered a big spoonful — we never refused. Great memories.

My recipe calls this mayonnaise cake. This recipe says to dump everything in a bowl and beat until smooth. It also takes 1 cup of mayonnaise. It takes the place of eggs. This is a tasty, moist cake that I bake in a 13 x 9-inch pan or two 8 x 8-inch pans and freeze one or share with someone. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Test for doneness.


1 can cream cheese frosting

3 tablespoon chunky peanut butter frosting

Stir until combined and frost a cold cake. Refrigerate the leftovers.

I hope you enjoy this cake as much as we do!


The invention of the electric instant pressure pot has turned my old recipes into a cooking learning curve. People have cooked tough pieces of meat in small pressure cookers on top of the stove for years. I love this electric pot as it requires one pot to dump in the ingredients, plug in, push the required buttons and within less than an hour you have a complete hot meal that is so good in the cold of winter or a busy summer evening after a fish trip.

Brown 1 to 2 pounds of good ground beef. Drain and place in the instant pot container.

Add: 5 medium potatoes quartered

1 onion chopped

1 teaspoon garlic

2 carrots large sliced

1 sliced celery

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Add one can of beef broth to cover or 2 cups water, just enough to cover. I have added one can of diced tomatoes. Adds a extra zing. Cook for a least an hour on the stove on low or what your instant pot requires.


(This is a requested recipe)

3/4 cup honey

1/4 cup water

1/2 gallon water

1 cup pickling salt

2 cups dark, dark brown sugar

1 cup real maple syrup

Salmon, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch strips

Mix together the water, salt, sugar and syrup.

Stir until all ingredients are dissolved.

Add fish and brine for 24 hours.

Remove fish and smoke anywhere from 8 hours to 1 1/2 days, depending on your smoker.

Use the 3/4 cup honey mixed with the 1/4 cup water for basting.

Don’t over smoke or you’re going to have jerky!

Apple and Cherry woods are great for this recipe.

Works well with venison.

• By ANN “GRANNIE ANNIE” BERG, For the Peninsula Clarion

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