Archive for April, 2010

Mimi’s Cooking Basics 101

Dear Readers,

There’s a number of things that every cook should know.  Measuring accurately is extremely necessary when baking.  Therefore, my first installment of “Cooking Basics 101” includes a table of measuring equivalents.

A “dash” or “pinch” is under 1/8 teaspoon

1-1/2 teaspoons equal 1/2 tablespoon

3 teaspoons equal 1 tablespoon

4 tablespoons equal 1/4 cup

5-1/3 tablespoons equal 1/3 cup

8 tablespoons equal 1/2 cup

10-2/3 tablespoons equal 2/3 cup

16 tablespoons equal 1 cup

1/2 cup equals 1/4 pint

1 cup equals 1/2 pint

2 cups equal 1 pint

4 cups equal 1 quart

Liquid Measure:

2 tablespoons equal 1 fluid ounce

3 tablespoons equal 1 jigger

1/4 cup equals 2 fluid ounces

1/2 cup equals 4 fluid ounces

1 cup equals 8 fluid ounces

Hope you find this measuring table useful.

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Here’s a continuation of my memories of being a secretary in the 60’s.

We typed on Royal or Remington manual typewriters.  But by the middle 60’s, almost all typewriters were electric and typing speeds became faster than ever.  Every business letter typed consisted of an original and 2 or 3 copies.  These copies were made by inserting carbon paper between the original and the “onion-skin” copy sheets.  This paper was as thin as tissue paper.  When a mistype occurred, it was a long process to erase and correct all the copies.  Smudges were hard to avoid on the ultra thin paper.

My boss would dictate the letters to be typed.  The letters were recorded in Gregg shorthand or were transcribed from the recording tapes of a Dictaphone machine.  The poor sound quality of these tapes made transcribing quite a chore.

In 1967 when pantsuits for women were introduced, I had to ask my boss for permission to wear the outfit to work.  Of course no permission was needed to wear mini-skirts to work!  The business office was very different from today’s office.  It would have been wonderful to have a computer with a “delete” button to easily erase any typing errors.

I don’t want to give the impression that my work wasn appreciated.  I had a great boss who shared the wealth with everyone, which meant a nice bonus check at Christmas time.  He even took all the secretaries out to lunch at a fancy restaurant on “National Secretary Day” in April.  His wife also gave us a pretty scarf or pin as a personal Christmas present.

My secretarial experience has enriched my life.  Typing is like riding a bicycle – once you learn it, you never forget how to do it.  Skill in typing is essential when working with computers – no “hunt and peck” for me.  In the 60’s mastery of correctly spelling words was essential.  There was no such thing as “spell check”.  Now the word “secretary” is an outdated one – the modern term is “professional assistant”.  With the advent of computers and e-mails, secretaries have gone the way of dinosours.  Oh well, I guess I’m just another old dinosaur!

Keep smilin’!

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Mimi Loves Kielbasa!

Dear Readers,

Yes Mimi does love kielbasa which is another name for Polish sausage.  It comes in one pound rings and can also be made with turkey instead of pork or beef.  I usually use turkey kielbasa because it is lower in fat and calories.  Did I mention that kielbasa is already fully cooked?  This cuts down on cooking time.

Here are 3 different ways to prepare this versatile sausage.  The recipe originally appeared in an old Good Housekeeping magazine article entitled “Quick food – Easy as 1-2-3”.

Apple Kraut Kielbasa

Score the surface of a 1-lb. ring of kielbasa on all sides; set aside.  In large skillet combine 15 oz. jar applesauce, 16oz. can sauerkraut, drained, and 1/2 teaspoon caraway seed.  Cook  over low heat for 5 minutes.

Add kielbasa; spoon applesauce-kraut over.  Cover and cook 15 minutes or until heated through.

Kielbasa with Onions and Peppers

Slice 1 lb. kielbasa into 1/4″ slices.  In large skillet, saute 1 sliced onion, 1 sliced green pepper and 1 crushed garlic clove in 1 tablespoon oil for 5 minutes.  Add kielbasa, 1/4 cup chili sauce, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.  Cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Kielbasa with Beans and Tomatoes

In large skillet saute 1 chopped onion in 1 tablespoon oil for 5 minutes.  Add 16 oz. can white beans, drained, 16 oz. can tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed.  Simmer 5 minutes.

Chop tomatoes with fork and add 1 pound kielbasa, sliced in 1/4″ rounds.  Cover and simmer 15 minutes.

All these recipes are heavenly when paired with homemade mashed potatoes.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Have you ever watched the tv show “Mad Men” on AMC?  It reveals the inner workings of an ad agency during the 60’s, complete with secretaries who were part of a large steno pool and who made coffee every morning for the male executives.

I was a secretary during the 60’s and “Mad Men’s” portrayal of them is spot on!  Many times I overheard the boss refer to me as “his girl” over the telephone.  He would ususally be telling a client that he would have “his girl” type and mail a letter to them.  I didn’t even drink coffee but had to learn how to make it in the morning and clean the coffee pot at the end of the day!  On one occasion, it was my job to clean out the office refrigerator.

We worked very hard – there were no answering machines or voice mail, so every call was either transferred to the proper person or a message was taken and written precisely on a “While You Were Out” form.  Because I was a secretary for an architect, we typed the building specifications for each project.  These specs were 50 to 100 pages long and were typed on wax stencils or “ditto” sheets that were used for copying.  “Ditto” sheets produced the copy in purple letters and were run off on a specific type of duplicator.  They produced a limited amount of copies before they faded out.  The wax stencils were cut when hundreds of copies were needed.

Typing “ditto” sheets were very messy because the purple dye stained your fingers and we had to use fiberglass brushes to erase mistypes.  Care had to be used during these types of erasures because the fiberglass fibers dug into your fingers like splinters.

I’ll continue this blog next time with more about the dictation and typing of business letters.  Until then,

Keep smilin’!

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Care For A Casserole? #6

Dear Readers,

Here’s a  casserole recipe that I received from my neighbor, Gail, on Daws Road.  She was a good cook and any recipe she shared with me was a delicious one!  It’s very simple to prepare but is a wonderful side dish for any main course.  My husband loves it!

Spinach Macaroni & Cheese Casserole

1 – 16 oz. pkg. small shell macaroni, cooked and drained

2 – 10 oz. pkgs. frozen, chopped spinach, prepared according to directions on package; cooked with 1 large chopped onion and then drained in colander

Add 1 large jar Cheese Whiz with hot, drained spinach, so that cheese thoroughly melts.  Combine this with macaroni.  Place in greased 9×13″ baking pan and bake in 325 degree oven until hot (about 30 minutes).

This casserole can be assembled a day ahead but do not bake until right before serving.  If baking casserole stright from the fridge, it will take longer than 30 minutes to heat.

Enjoy and remember to always

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Walking is such an invigorating event.  When the sky is brilliantly blue, the birds are chirping, and a gentle breeze caresses your face, all your senses are experiencing one of life’s greatest treats.

And a big part of this treat is observing fellow pedestrians.  Sometimes it’s amusing and other times disturbing; like the time I passed a young teenage girl wearing a tee-shirt emblazoned with “The Dead Kennedy’s”.  Maybe it was the off-beat name of a young band.  But to someone of my generation, that title is very sad.  Having lived through the murders of both John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, the term “dead Kennedy’s” is almost sacrilegious.  The entire nation endured a period of great loss and mourning accompanied by a profound loss of innocence that forever changed our way of thinking.  We all remember where we were and what we were doing at the time the news of JFK’s assasination was televised.  Even Walter Kronkite, the trusted news commentator, choked up when he delivered the time of the president’s death.

But this young girl has no idea of the feelings evoked by reading “The Dead Kennedy’s” on her tee-shirt.  She’s too young; this all happened too many years ago.  In fact, we’re now at a time where the term “Dead Kennedy’s” means different things to different people.

I spent the remainder of my walk wondering how different the world would be had both John and Robert Kennedy lived.  It was a lot of food for thought to be digested on a beautiful morning walk!

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

The Blue Boar Cafeteria was part of a chain of restaurants and was a downtown Louisville institution, that reached its heyday from 1931 through the 50’s.  Everyone in Louisville ate at the restaurant on Fifth Street at one time or another.  Here’s a recipe from the cafeteria that was printed in the local newspaper, the Courier-Journal.  Try it – it will take you back to the 50’s.

Blue Boar’s Baked Spaghetti and Tomatoes Au Gratin

8 oz. spaghetti

1 large onion, chopped

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 – 14 oz. can whole tomatoes

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash of pepper

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 lb. Cheddar cheese, grated

Cook spaghetti according to package directions.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Drain again.

Saute chopped onion in butter until transparent.

Drain tomatoes, reserving juice to dissolve cornstarch.  Mash tomatoes.  Combine with salt, sugar and pepper.  Bring to a boil in a saucepan.

Dissolve cornstarch in reserved tomato juice.  Add to boiling tomatoes, stirring constantly.  Stir until tomatoes thicken and raw starch taste has disappeared.

Add onion and spaghetti to tomatoes.

Place in a greased 2-quart casserole.  Top with grated cheese and bake in a 400 degree oven until cheese is  melted and lightly browned.  Serve hot.

Makes 8 servings.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

There is a certain path I strolled many times near our former house that I nicknamed the “honeysuckle walk”.  I guess the name is obvious because a major part of it is on a sidewalk bordered by a six foot high stucco fence clothed in honeysuckle vines.  The sweet smell of these blossoms brings back memories of my early morning walk on the way to St. Therese Church in Louisville, Kentucky.  Let me explain a little more fully.

We lived within walking distance of the church.  On the way to church at the corner of Breckinridge Street (where I lived) and Schiller Avenue, there was a long fence covered with honeysuckle.  The fence belonged to the Quickert family and the vines gave the family a measure of privacy because the side of their backyard faced Schiller Avenue.  Many early summer mornings I passed these extremely thick and robust vines where the fragrance of the honeysuckle blossoms filled the air.  It was heavenly!

Why did I pass this way so early on a summer morning?  Well, in the fifth, sixth and seventh grades, the class was given the task of singing either the 7AM or 8AM Mass in June, July and August.  I was a faithful choir member so the smell of honeysuckle was encountered by me on numerous occasions.  Waking up early during my summer vacation wasn’t much fun but passing the honeysuckle was a bonus of sorts.  Some mornings I was the only kid to show up; just me and Sister M. Antonine, the organist, singing the Mass together!

So now the smell of honeysuckle in a very different time and place, awakens memories of summer morning walks and my experience as a solitary choir singer and it’s a very comforting memory.

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

The following is a continuation of our week long celebration of Easter.

On Holy Saturday, Easter preparations were made.  Mom thoroughly cleaned the house and Dad grocery shopped for the Easter meal.  Our traditional meal consisted of baked ham, two kinds of potato salad:  American and German, baked beans, asparagus, and sliced hard-boiled Easter eggs.  Dessert was candy from our Easter basket.

On Easter Sunday, we arose early because we knew the Easter Bunny had hidden eggs and a basket of candy for us.  We hunted for these treasures before we went to Mass.  The Easter Bunny always hid these goodies in various places around the house.  One year I found my Easter basket in the bath tub!

Easter Mass was a very special time where we wore new clothes to church.  Mom bought us new dresses, shiny black patent-leather maryjanes, and a perky Easter bonnet.  If Easter was early and cool weather was expected, we wore new spring coats in pastel colors to match our dresses.  Some years we even donned fancy white gloves.

After Mass, the Easter feast was eaten at noon.  My Mom’s widowed sister joined us for the meal.  The Kodak Brownie camera was brought out and we posed wearing our brand new Easter outfits.

There was no school on Easter Monday and Tuesday.  We used those days to play and sneak treats from the Easter baskets.  Of course, there was always egg salad sandwiches for lunch!

Life was certainly good in the 1950’s, especially at Easter time.

Keep smilin’!

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