Archive for July, 2010

MaMa G’s Seven-Up Cake

Dear Readers,

On July 27, 2010 I wrote a blog about MaMa Gastinger’s wonderful Sunday night dinners.  She liked to try different recipes for desserts and this is one I enjoyed very much.  MaMa gave me a copy and I still have it on the piece of flowered stationery that it was written.  The recipe is dated December 28, 1972.

MaMa G’s Seven-Up Cake

1 small box pineapple or lemon instant pudding

4 eggs

1 box of Lemon Supreme cake mix

3/4 cup cooking oil (not olive)

10 oz. can or bottle of 7-Up

Mix all ingredients together.  Beat well.  Bake in 9″ x 13″ baking  pan at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until done.


1-1/2 cups white sugar

2 whole eggs

1 stick butter

Cook over low heat, stirring until thick.  Cool and the add:

1 cup coconut

1 small can (8 0z.) crushed pineapple, not drained

Punch holes in cake with fork and spread icing on cake.


Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

One thing I really miss is Sunday dinners with the whole family.  It was a time when the entire brood gathered to discuss the week’s happenings over plates of deliciously prepared meals.

The best family Sunday dinner was the bountiful feast hosted by MaMa Gastinger, my husband’s grandmother.  As a newlywed, I looked forward to attending her meals.  MaMa was a country gal from Loretto, Ky. and she was the typical country cook.  One meat entree was not enough for her.  Often she served fried chicken and baked ham or roast beef and baked chicken at the same meal.  There were at least four or five vegetable side dishes including green beans, corn-on-the-cob, mashed potatoes, fried okra and yellow summer squash.  She prepared what she called “rabbit food” for my father-in-law with raw carrots, celery, green peppers and radishes.  Once I complimented her on a mouthwatering turnip dish and she continued serving it every time I was a guest.

We teased and asked her how she cooked so many items with only four burners on her gas stove and no microwave oven.  MaMa explained that as the various dishes were completed, she would place them in the oven until the entire meal was ready to serve.  Did I mention that she added a small side table at the end of the dining table to hold two or three salads?  Jello salad, coleslaw and sliced tomatoes were part of the menu.  Dessert was a tasty iced layer cake or a couple of fruit pies.  MaMa loved trying new cake recipes gathered from neighbors and friends.  Iced sweet tea was the beverage of the day.

MaMa was a wonderful woman who worked very hard for her family.  Her Sunday feasts were truly a labor of love.  Once dinner was completed, MaMa relaxed while we washed the dishes by hand, dried them and cleaned up the kitchen.  It was so much fun being part of this family!  We were even sent home with containers of leftovers.  I never realized how much work and effort she put into preparing Sunday dinner until I started cooking for my own family.

I’m positive MaMa is now in heaven enjoying a celestial banquet where she doesn’t have to cook one blessed thing!

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Last Friday I shared a recipe for Sour Cream Corn Pancakes.  Well, here’s another recipe that makes use of the abundance of corn that is for sale at farmers’ markets in July.  It is easy and delicious.  This recipe came from the Food Network website courtesy of Cathy Lowe.  I hope you like it.

Summer Corn Salad

5 ears corn, boiled or grilled

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tomato, seeded and diced

fresh cilantro, to taste

1 red onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 lime, juiced



Remove kernels with paring knife and place in a large bowl.  Add tomato, onion and green pepper.  Toss to combine.  Add lime juice and olive oil.  Snip in cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

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“The Cranberry Man”

Dear Readers,

Seidenfaden’s Cafe was a “beer joint” on the corner of Breckinridge and Vine Streets, just about five houses away from my childhood home in Louisville, Ky.  It was a place to grab a cold beer or a shot of whiskey or both, if you were in the mood for a “boiler-maker”.  The focal point of Seidenfaden’s was a long wooden bar with a brass foot rail and a couple of spittoons strategically placed on the floor along the perimeter of the bar.

Dad would go there every Friday evening to get his paycheck cashed and would frequently bring home a soft drink for all of us along with a bottle of beer for himself.  Mom advised him to refrain from drinking out of the cafe’s glasses because she feared that he might contract tuberculosis from one of its unsavory customers.

Seidenfaden’s played a big part in the life of our neighborhood.  My sister and I would sit on our front steps to watch customers coming and going from the saloon.  There was one man who routinely staggered down the street carrying a tin pail of draft beer.  We were amazed that he never spilled a drop of beer, no matter how unsteady he was.

Our favorite saloon patron was a man nicknamed “the cranberry man” by our father.  This gentlemen had to be in his 80’s with a thin, slender body and snow-white hair.  He was stylishly attired in a blue and white seersucker suit, even on some of the hottest days of summer.  We imagined that he was a retired professor.

He would casually stroll to Seidenfaden’s and then 15 minutes later would be staggering home.  My Dad was astonished at how quickly he became inebriated and had his own theory as to how this was accomplished.  He told us that the man never drank a drop of alcohol but that the bartender saw him coming and quickly hit him in the head with a cranberry.  That’s all it took to get him drunk.  My sister and I laughed at our father’s joke.  But from that day forward we referred to this old gentleman as “the cranberry man”.  He was just one of many characters that populated our neighborhood.  It’s been 50 plus years since I last saw him, but “the cranberry man” still brings a smile to my face.

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Summertime is corn time and this is a great way to use some of that delicious corn that is now being sold at the farmers’ market.  Take a break from “corn-on-the-cob” and try this recipe for Sour Cream Corn Pancakes.

Sour Cream Corn Pancakes

1-1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup sour cream

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 to 4 ears)

1 to 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

On waxed paper, combine flour, baking powder and salt.

In medium bowl, with wire whisk, mix milk, sour cream, eggs and melted butter until blended.  Whisk in dry ingredients just until mixed.  Stir in corn.

In non-stick 12-inch skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium heat.  Drop batter by 1/4 cups into skillet, making a few pancakes at a time.  Cook 5 to 7 minutes, until tops are bubbly and edges look dry.  Turn pancakes over and cook 3 to 5 minutes, until undersides are golden.  Transfer pancakes to platter; keep warm.

Repeat with remaining batter, using more oil if necessary. Makes about twelve 4-inch pancakes.

Each pancake contains 140 calories and 6 grams total fat.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

One warm Saturday morning as I concluded my walk, I encountered a father and his young son.  They were both on bikes and the dad was warning the child about how to safely cross the street at the traffic light.  The boy listened intently to his father.  On another morning walk, I hear sounds of chatter coming from behind a tall hedge at the side of a home.  It was a one-sided conversation, so I assumed that the lady was talking on the phone.  Happily, I discovered this was not the case.  A mother was reading to her son from a book.  From the tone of her voice, it was an adventure story.  The boy, about 8 or 9 years old, was still in his pj’s and contentedly cradled next to his mom, as they sat on the porch swing.

I thought about both of these parents and what a terrific gift they were giving to their children – their time and undivided attention.  This time was bestowed freely and was not marred by sneaking glances at their blackberry or I-phone.  Kids don’t crave expensive toys or fancy trips to amusement parks.  Spending time together with loved ones is what they really want!

I learned this fact was true when raising my children, but even more so with my granddaughters.  And now I have plenty of time to give – time to rock them to sleep, time to swing them while singing songs and most of all, time to read to them.

And come to think of it – isn’t that what we all crave?  We all desire time and attention from those who are dear to us.  It gives validation to our very existence!

If there is any advice Mimi would give to parents, it is this.  Give all the time you can to your youngsters – it is more precious than money and oh so fleeting.  Enjoy your children before they grow up.  Housework and chores, cellphones and blackberries will always be there but time with your children is limited.  I realize now just how fast time flies and I’m going to treasure every moment I spend with my granddaughters.

Keep smilin’!

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An Interesting and Exotic Recipe

Dear Readers,

I love to read cookbooks and I found an interesting recipe called “Picadillo” in “365 Easy One-Dish Meals” by Natalie Haughton.  I was intrigued by the unusual combination of ingredients.  Finally got around to making this dish and was very impressed by the flavors.  My husband loved it.  This is the description of the dish quoted directly from the cookbook.  “This is a great buffet offering for an informal party, with hot cooked rice on the side.  It can  also be frozen for 2 to 3 months.  Our tasters loved the somewhat exotic flavor.  This recipe can be doubled or tripled for a larger crowd.”


1-1/2 pounds ground turkey or beef

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 large onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 – 14 oz. can cut-up tomatoes, undrained

1 – 6 oz. can tomato paste

1/2 cup dry sherry

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of ground cloves

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives

1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

In a 4 or 5 quart pot, cook meat in oil over medium-high heat, stirring to break up lumps, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes.  (If using beef, drain off excess fat.)

Add garlic, onion and green pepper.  Cook, stirring often, until onion is tender, about 3 minutes.

Stir in all remaining ingredients except almonds.  Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve hot, garnished with almonds.

Makes 6 large servings.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

There’s an element of excitement and energy in the air when living downtown.  The hustle bustle of people going to and from work, the steady flow of traffic during rush hours, and buses busily streaming in and out of the depot are all very exhilarating.  Even the wailing of police and fire sirens is thrilling.  In other words, Mimi loves city living.  Let me give you some examples of the action that played out during the July 4th weekend

Friday was the first Friday of the month and this evening is set aside as a time for visiting art galleries, museums and restaurants in the downtown area.  Quite a few people engage in this monthly ritual, complete with a different band each first Friday that performs outdoors on blockaded streets.  My husband and  I like to take our outdoor folding chairs to this area for front-row concert seats, enjoying the music and watching the passers-by.  The best part of this evening was observing the charismatic band leader coaxing the audience to come and dance in the street.  About 30 or 40 people, young and old, heeded his call and proceeded to dance the “Electric Slide” together.  I felt as though we were all having one big party!

Saturday morning a Dixieland band plays outside “Big Ed’s” restaurant in City Market.  I make a point of listening to them every weekend and July 3 was no exception.  They sang old songs from the 30’s and 40’s; the same tunes my Dad loved to croon.  The arrangement of “I Want To Be Happy” did just that to my mood.  This melody, along with the outstanding sunny morning, made my day.  I kept thinking that life doesn’t get any better than this!

Finally, on July 4th there was a grand Independence Day celebration on the grounds of the state Capital Building.  Twenty-nine immigrants became American citizens and it was inspiring to attend this ceremony.  The Raleigh Band played patriotic songs and wreaths were laid in front of the various war memorial monuments.  The crowd stood at attention for the Pledge of Allegiance for the Flag and the National Anthem.  Taps was played and thoughts of our dead soldiers came to mind.  New citizens posed for pictures with their families in front of the monument honoring three US Presidents from North Carolina:  James K. Polk, Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson.  There was a children’s parade with the little ones sporting hats they constructed at the celebration.  It was comforting to see so many people enjoying the festivities.  I felt proud to be an American!  And to be an American savoring all the pleasures of “city living” is even better!

Keep smilin’!

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Mimi’s Pasta Salad

Dear Readers,

There are so many versions of pasta salad and this is my take on this all-time favorite.  I recently made it for my granddaughter’s christening party and it was a hit!  What do you think?

Mimi’s Pasta Salad

1 – 16 oz. pkg. bow-tie pasta

1-1/2 cups chopped tomatoes, seeded

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1-1/2 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed

1/1-2 cups cubed pepper jack cheese

1-1/2 cups Kraft zesty Italian salad dressing

Morton’s Nature’s Seasonings

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Combine pasta with remaining ingredients.  Give ingredients a very generous sprinkling of Morton’s Nature’s Seasonings.  Refrigerate salad at least 6 hours before serving.  This gives the dressing time to soak into the pasta.  It makes a huge bowl of salad.  Recipe can also be halved.  Enjoy!

Keep smilin’!

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