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Archive for October, 2009

Care for a Casserole? #3

Dear Readers,

Here’s another good casserole for chilly days.  It is warm and hardy and goes great with fresh homebaked cornbread.  Cut it out of the newspaper about 35 years ago.

Beef and Cabbage Casserole

1 medium onion, chopped

3 tablespoons butter

3/4 pound ground chuck

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

6 cups coarsely shredded cabbage

A 10-1/2 oz. can tomato soup

Saute onion in butter.  Add the ground chuck, salt and pepper.  Heat through but do not brown.  Spread in a 2 quart baking dish 3 cups of the cabbage.  Cover with meat mixture, top with 3 more cups of cabbage.  Pour soup over top.  Cover top of casserole.    Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.  Serves 4.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

On my walks through downtown Raleigh, I’ve noticed some black walnut trees growing on state office grounds near the corner of Dawson and Jones Streets.  What alerted me to the trees, were the fallen green balls about the size of a hockey puck, littering the ground and sidewalk.  There were also a few cracked and half-eaten nuts; no doubt the leftovers from a hungry squirrel’s lunch.

Seeing those nuts immediately transported me back to Louisville in the 1950’s and specifically to my second cousin, Urban Heck’s backyard on Vine Street.  My Mom’s bachelor cousin lived just around the corner from us and had a huge black walnut tree.

Every fall my Dad would go to Urban’s yard to gather the walnuts.  Then he hulled and cracked them open using a hammer.  Inside was a hard brown nut about the size of a ping pong ball.  The hammer also cracked this part of the walnut.  Dad was careful to wear gloves to keep his hands from being stained brown.

My Mom, my sisters and I then picked the nut meats from these broken shells, using metal nut pickers that reminded me of small knitting needles.  It was quite a labor-intensive job but we enjoyed sitting around the kitchen table on Sunday afternooons picking the walnuts.  Some times there was more talking and laughing than there was picking!  But we always managed to extract enough nuts in time for Mom’s Christmas baking.

She made “sausage cookies” that contained black walnuts.  They received this name because of the process of shaping the dough like sausages, which were refrigerated for a length of time and finally sliced and baked on a cookie sheet.  Mom baked dozens of these cookies and so did many of my aunts.  I think it was an old German family recipe.

For quite a few years the harvesting and picking of black walnuts was a big part of our preparation for Christmas.  Funny, how the sight of one walnut tree can reawaken such pleasant memories!

Keep smilin’!

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Soup’s On

Dear Readers,

With the cool crisp weather of October, Mimi’s ready to start preparing soup again.  Here’s a recipe from an old Pillsbury magazine that is good and sure to warm you up.

Broccoli and Cheese Soup

2 tablespoons chopped onion

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 cups milk

1 cup shredded American cheese

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1-1/2 cups water

10 oz. package frozen chopped broccoli

In large saucepan, cook onion in butter until tender.  Stir in flour, salt and pepper until well blended.  Add milk all at once.  Cook until thickened, stirring constantly.  Add cheese and stir until melted.  Remove from heat.

In medium saucepan, dissolve bouillon cubes in water.  Bring to boil, add broccoli and cook according to package directions; do not drain.  Add broccoli and cooking liquid to cheese mixture; stir until well blended.  Makes 5 (1 cup) servings.

Notes:  Ten ounce packages of frozen chopped broccoli are hard to find in the grocery store, so I used a bag of frozen broccoli florets (14 0z.) and measured out approximately 10 ounces.  Also used cheddar cheese instead of American cheese.  If you have a wire whisk, use it when stirring the thickened sauce.  It will prevent lumps of flour from forming.  Also this recipe can be doubled.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

My granddaughter is enrolled in a music appreciation class for toddlers.  I had the privilege of accompanying her to this class.  About 10 toddlers marched and danced to songs like “Old King Cole”, “This Little Light of Mine”, and “Mississippi Cats”.  Their teacher played the folk song “Shenandoah” on the piano as the little ones rested in their mothers’ laps.

This class reminded me what a big part music plays in our lives.  There are lullabies, school songs, wedding music and yes, even funeral music.  These toddlers are just beginning their journey of making musical memories.

Let me tell you of a few musical memories in my life.  I remember being rocked by my Mom as she sang “I’d walk a million miles for one of your smiles”, a line from Al Jolson’s song “Mammy” written in the 1920’s.  My Dad had a great tenor voice and he and I sang “Sentimental Journey” and “Buttons and Bows” for family and friends.

As a first grader, I sang “The teensy weensy spider climbed up the water spout . . .” and learned the accompanying hand gestures showing a spider climbing up.  In the fifth grade, Mrs. Webber, our choir director, taught us traditional Christmas carols to sing for our debut at the  5 A.M. Christmas mass.  As part of our family tradition, Dad led us in singing “Silent Night” at the completion of decorating the Christmas tree.

All the angst and joy of my teen years are relived every time I hear the songs of Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and Little Richard.  I was 18 years old driving my car on a Sunday afternoon in January the first time I heard the Beatles sing “I Want To Hold Your Hand”!  Selected the theme from Romeo and Juliet to be played right before my wedding march down the aisle.

“Amazing Grace” was sung at Mom’s funeral and I’m reminded of her whenever it is played.  Tears still well up in my eyes, when I sing “On Eagles’ Wings” at mass.  My Dad loved that song and sang it with gusto.  For that reason, it was featured at his funeral mass.

My son loved being sung to sleep every night as a toddler.  His songs of choice were 2 lullabies:  “TooRaLooRaLooRal” (an Irish lullaby) and Brahms’ lullaby sung in German.  Found myself singing these same two tunes to his daughter the other night.

I’m glad Emily is learning to enjoy music.  It’s such a big part of our lives.  In happy times, momentous times and sad times, music is a way to give meaning to our feelings.  Emily, you are just beginning your life’s journey and I’m glad you’ll soon learn music can be your faithful companion along the way.

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Last week I mentioned having quite a few good casserole recipes.  Well, here’s the second entry in the “Care For A Casserole?” series.

This recipe appeared in a magazine ad for Ragu Spaghetti Sauce.  It’s a quick and easy one-dish meal that, when combined with red wine, tossed salad and crusty Italian bread, is special enough to serve dinner guests.

Hope you like it!

Simmered Tuscan Chicken

1 lb. boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1″ cubes

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 med. potatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes (about 4 cups)

1 med. red bell pepper, diced

1 jar (27 ozs.) Ragu Old World Style Pasta Sauce

1 lb. fresh or frozen cut green beans

1 teaspoon dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

In a 12″ skillet, saute chicken and garlic in olive oil until chicken is lightly browned.  Add potatoes and peppers; continue to cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add sauce, basil, green beans, salt and pepper; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium; cover and simmer for 35 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked and potatoes are tender.  Stir occasionally. Cooking time:  40 minutes.  Serves 6.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Recently visited New Haven, CT., home to Yale University with its urban campus and beautiful tree-lined city streets.  One of the nicest features of the city is the dedicated lane for bikers.  Quite a few students and residents ride their bicycles everywhere and the bike lanes provide some measure of safety.

Bill Donahue, in his article “A Free-Wheeling City” appearing in Parade magazine, relates that there are a number of bike-friendly cities in the U.S., including Boulder, CO., Tucson, AR. and Davis, CA.  The city of Columbia, MO. has spent millions of dollars promoting cycling, including painted bike lanes and lots of racks for locking bikes placed outside cafes and retail stores.  Darwin Hindman, 76, mayor of Columbia, is an avid biker.  He said “If we depend too much on cars, then we increase our reliance on foreign oil, childhood obesity goes up and life just isn’t as much fun”.  It seems to me that bicycle riding could solve a number of problems both on the energy front and for health issues.

Think I’ll dust off the old Schwinn touring bike, buy a cute helmet (if there is such a thing!), and start pedaling.  Whoopee!

On another recent trip, I changed planes in Baltimore’s BWI airport and was pleasantly surprised upon entering the ladies’ restroom.  Besides being extremely clean, there was a vase of live flowers adorning the counter behind the wash bowls.  The flowers weren’t expensive or exotic blooms, just carnations or mums; but they added such a touch of warmth and elegance to a public place.

Wonder who thought of bathroom bouquets?  This may sound sexist, but I bet it was a woman!  We know how just a few carefully placed blooms can elevate the mood in any room.  BWI Airport:  Keep up the good work.  You sure put a big smile on one weary traveler’s face!

Keep smilin’!

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Care For a Casserole?

Dear Readers,

Mimi has a number of very good casserole recipes that are suitable for fall and winter meals.  This recipe is the first in a series that will be published for your consideration.

Had dinner at Gravy, the Italian restaurant on Wilmington Street in downtown Raleigh, last night.  My choice of entrees was the Baked Ziti with a surprise ingredient of green peas.  It was delicious!  I don’t know how Chef Tony prepares his baked ziti but here’s a good version from my kitchen.  It was printed on the box that contained San Giorgio brand cut ziti.

Baked Ziti

6 cups (16 ozs.) San Giorgio cut ziti, uncooked

3-1/2 cups (28 oz. jar) spaghetti sauce

2 cups (16 ozs.) ricotta cheese

2 cups (16 ozs.) shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Cook cut ziti according to package directions for 10 minutes; drain.  In large bowl, combine cooked ziti, 1-1/2 cups spaghetti sauce, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, parsley, egg, oregano, garlic powder and pepper.  In 3 quart casserole pour 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce; spread ziti mixture evenly over sauce.  Top with remaining 1-1/2 cups spaghetti sauce; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Bake, covered, at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Makes about 8 servings.

I always have some extra sauce on hand for those who want to add more on the plate.

Okay, Chef Tony’s ziti is probably better than mine but this one tastes pretty darn good, if you’re short on time.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

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