For those who love to cook—and those who love to eat—I’m sharing a meal that’s great for a family gathering or a casual dinner party.

My popular menu features Beef Brisket with Mop Sauce, Comforting Potato Casserole, Tossed Salad with Carrot Dressing, Grandma’s Honey Muffins and Poppy Seed Cake. As you will see, I’m not a gourmet cook…I just like to put a different twist on food that people enjoy.

My husband, Chuck, and I have been married for 53 years. He’s a “meat-and-potatoes” guy, and I am fond of desserts. Three of our five children and their families live nearby, and we get together often for holidays and special occasions. I’m in my glory with a houseful of hungry folks to feed!

What Kind of Sauce?

Beef Brisket with Mop Sauce was quick to gain everyone’s approval. “You can make this again, Mom!” they agreed. Before settling in Georgia, our son Mike and daughter-in-law Sharon lived in Texas. There, we learned that mop sauce is traditionally prepared for Texas ranch-style barbecue in batches so large that it is brushed on the meat with a mop! But we love the zesty flavor of the sauce and think you will, too.

Tossed Salad with Carrot Dressing always draws favorable comments. It tastes so fresh and is easy to mix up. We love going to the farmers market on Saturdays in summer and fall to buy fresh produce. I like to dress up homegrown lettuce with cut veggies, chow mein noodles, dried cranberries and shredded cabbage.

Comforting Potato Casserole was a dish I first tasted at a wedding reception, and I asked the caterer for the recipe. I make these snazzy potatoes often, as do our daughters, who appreciate that the recipe can be made ahead.

Flavorful Hand-Me-Down

I fondly remember my Grandma Wheeler making her Honey Muffins. We'd eat them fresh from the oven…nice and warm. Getting the correct measurements for her recipe was difficult because she used “a pinch of this” and “a handful of that,” and knew when there was enough flour because it “felt right.”

Deciding which dessert recipe to add to my menu was difficult. I asked the family, and each one had a different suggestion. I chose old-fashioned Poppy Seed Cake. Tender and chock-full of poppy seeds, it has a yummy cream cheese frosting. I got the cake recipe from my longtime friend Mabel, who is of Finnish descent and bakes up a storm.

Darlis Wilfer - West Bend, Wisconsin

“I love to take an old recipe, tweak it to my liking and mix new with old...”

Family: Darlis and husband Chuck have five children and 12 grandchildren. Now retired, he worked as a power company customer service representative.

Job: Darlis has worked part-time for a catering company.

Activities: Church work, Hurricane Katrina relief in Mississippi, Angel on My Shoulder cancer foundation.

Hobbies: Playing piano, singing and art—“I love to paint barns.”

Treasured Kitchen Traditions

Chuck and Darlis Wilfer

I'm from a German family in which the grandmothers and mothers took care to pass along cooking lore to their children. My mom, Lorraine, who's 92, still remembers learning from her mom and grandmother. I'm now passing on those skills and cherished heritage recipes to my children and grandchildren. I love to take an old recipe, tweak it to my liking and mix new with old. Usually, the result is surprisingly compatible.

Browsing through cookbooks and Taste of Home gives me plenty of new ideas. What a privilege to have been asked to be one of the magazine’s first field editors in 1993.

I want to thank the Taste of Home “family” for the many smiles you have brought to our dinner table. For when my family and friends enjoy my cooking, they are also complimenting the many fellow subscribers who have shared their recipes.

I hope this meal of mine brings smiles and good eating to you!