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SpokaneTalks Online chef Leroy Payne prepares a Dorothy Dean classic: Enchiladas Casserole

Chef Leroy Payne makes Dorothy Dean’s Enchiladas Casserole from 1963. (Courtesy of SpokaneTalks Online)

“Everything’s better with cheese!”

So says chef Leroy Payne as he prepares a Dorothy Dean classic: Enchiladas Casserole. The vintage recipe is just one of the many vintage Dorothy Dean recipes to be featured in Wednesday’s Spokesman-Review Food section, wrapping the weekly coupon inserts. The newspaper began reissuing the old recipes earlier this year.

But Dorothy Dean has much deeper roots.

Women who headed The Spokesman-Review’s Dorothy Dean Homemakers Service used the alliterative pseudonym for nearly 50 years.

The first Dorothy Dean weekly cooking matinee took place Oct. 17, 1935. In addition to hosting cooking demonstrations and publishing recipe leaflets, the newspaper’s home economics department produced an “Ask Dorothy Dean” column and operated a free telephone hotline for homemakers to get on-the-spot advice for their latest cooking – and other domestic – disasters.

Dorothy Dean offered recipes that were budget-friendly and easy to prepare. Instructions weren’t elaborate, usually running just a few, simple lines. That no-nonsense, three-hole-punch approach to home cooking endured through the war years and baby boom and past the Summer of Love and the 1970s until the Dorothy Dean Homemakers Service was shuttered in 1983.

Many readers believed she was real, and decades later, they still miss her. They call the newsroom, looking for replacement leaflets or specific recipes.

And they continue to treasure her recipes, bound in worn, forest green, three-ring binders that are often taped together to keep the Christmas goose, sherried Cornish game hens or Patio Lickin’ Chicken from falling out.

Dorothy Dean was reliable and reachable, practical and economical, an expert who seemed more like a surrogate mom or grandmother than a series of newspaper editors. She popular and trusted, a confidant for Inland Northwest brides and housewives to turn to when they needed help.

She still is. That’s why The Spokesman-Review is reissuing her recipes, renewing the chance for this generation of home cooks to build a treasure trove of recipes, tried-and-true and time-tested.

This week, Payne, of Spokane Talks Online, walks readers and viewers through Enchiladas Casserole from 1963. Look for the recipe in Wednesday’s newspaper. And enjoy the cooking show here.