Archive for November, 2010

Dear Readers,

Television was a big part of my childhood.  My Dad purchased our first TV in 1950, when I was 5 years old.  It was a Zenith with a small round screen.  We were so excited when it was delivered and set up in a place of honor in our home.  It was quite expensive so only Mom or Dad was allowed to turn it on.  The picture did not come on immediately – we had to wait for the tubes in the set to warm up.

Only two channels were available for viewing – CBS and NBC.  Shows were telecast for only four hours a day from 6 PM to 10 PM.  My sister and I would often gaze at the test pattern on the screen, waiting for our favorite programs to go “on air”.  And we didn’t dare sit too close to the TV because Mom warned us it would ruin our eyesight!

World news shows on television was a very new innovation and lasted only 15 minutes.  At 6:45 PM every evening, John Cameron Swayze, a leading news reporter of the 50’s, appeared to read the lastest news report.  He sat at a very impressive desk and frequently glanced down at his notes.  There was no accompanying film footage of the daily news events.  I can still remember his commercial message:  “A Timex watch takes a licking and keeps on ticking!”

My family never missed the broadcasts each night from 7 to 9 PM.  Here is a sample of our weekly line up:

Monday – 8 PM – I Love Lucy with Lucille Ball – 8:30 PM – December Bride with Spring Byington

Tuesday – 8 PM – The Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle

Wednesday – 8 PM – Father Knows Best

I can’t remember any favorites from Thursday nights.

Friday – 8 PM – I Remember Mama with Peggy Wood – 9 PM – Friday night wrestling matches with “Gorgeous George” and other wrestlers with grandiose names

Saturday – 8 PM – Your Show of Shows with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca

Sunday – 7 PM – Superman with George Reeves – 8 PM – The Loretta Young Show with Loretta Young sweeping through an opening door wearing a beautiful gown to introduce that evening’s story.

There were many other programs I remember from the 50’s such as The Jackie Gleason Show, Sky King, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Hopalong Cassidy, Lassie, Dragnet and the Cisco Kid.

I can still remember how my family would sit in our favorite seats to watch the little round television.  Some nights Mom would let us turn off the lights and we would pretend that the television was really our own private movie screen.  We laughed and cried together as we observed our favorite characters come to life on TV.    Those were great family nights that I will never forget!

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

I started preparing this “Deviled Corn” recipe in the early 70’s for our Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.  It came from the Better Homes and Gardens “Holiday Cooking and Entertaining Ideas” recipe magazine published in 1970.  I still have the magazine – the pages are yellow and the ads are dated.  But it still contains some very good holiday recipes.  My family really enjoyed the “Deviled Corn” casserole.  Give it a try.

Deviled Corn

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash pepper

1/2 cup milk

3 slices bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled

2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

1 – 16 oz. can whole kernel corn, drained

1- 16 oz. can cream-style corn

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup medium cracker crumbs (about 14 crackers)

1 tablespoon butter, melted

In saucepan melt the 4 tablespoons butter; stir in flour, mustard, Worcestershire, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Add milk all at once; cook and stir till mixture thickens and bubbles.  Remove from heat; carefully stir in bacon, eggs, whole-kernel and cream-style corn.

Spoon into a 1-1/2 quart casserole, sprinkle cheese over top.  Combine cracker crumbs and the 1 tablespoon melted  butter; sprinkle over cheese.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or till heated through.  Garnish with hard-cooked egg wedges and green olive slices, if desired.  Makes 6 servings.

Note:  I use Ritz crackers for lots of flavor.  The recipe can easily be doubled and then baked in a 3-quart, 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish.  It can also be made in advance and then heated in the oven just before serving.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Last week I wrote about a typical family Thanksgiving celebration during my childhood in the 50’s.  Today let me tell about a very different Thanksgiving experienced during the 70’s.

The year was 1974 – my daughter was born in April and it was her first Thanksgiving.  My husband was opening a new store in  his chain of retail stuffed toy shops on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

The store was located in the newly constructed Granite Run Mall in Media, PA., about a 45 minute drive from our home in Norristown, PA.  It needed to be fully stocked and ready for the Black Friday opening.  My husband worked until after midnight on Thanksgiving Eve, but there were still a few more shelves to be stocked.  He would just have to work on Thanksgiving!

So Jude and I accompanied him to the store.  We wanted to be together as a family.  I really wasn’t much help because I was playing with Jude in the stock room.  She even napped there.  We were there for moral support.

Dinner time arrived, Mike was still working and Jude was hungry.  Luckily, I had packed a meal for all of us.  We munched on sandwiches but Jude had a full Thanksgiving feast.  The jars of Beech-Nut babyfood contained turkey, sweet potatoes and a cranberry-apple mixture.  She loved every spoonful.  It certainly was not a gourmet meal but it was wonderful and we were together as a new family celebrating our daughter’s first Thanksgiving.

There have been many Thanksgiving dinners since then.  But this was one of the best.  After all, Thanksgiving is not only about the food served on a fancy table.  It’s about being with people you love and giving thanks together.

And this is my wish for all of you.  I hope you can give thanks to God for all His blessings, surrounded by your family and loved ones.

Happy Thanksgiving and don’t forget to

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Here’s an easy holiday dessert featuring ricotta cheese.  It is from the makers of Maggio Ricotta Cheese.  Pastina, one of the ingredients, is a tiny star shaped pasta made by Barilla.  This recipe will definitely add an Italian flair to your holiday entertaining.

Nona’s Ricotta Pie

3 lbs. Maggio Ricotta Cheese

2 cups sugar

6 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla or anise extract

1 cup cooked pastina

1 greased 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish


Combine ingredients and mix well.  Pour into the pan and bake at 325 degrees for two hours.  Top must be firm.  Serves 10 to 12.  When cool, sprinkle with candied fruit and nuts.  Refrigerate leftovers.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Our local newspaper is requesting readers to share stories of their family’s Thanksgiving traditions.  Well let me tell you about our family’s Thanksgiving celebration during the 50’s.

First of all, we enjoyed our feast early in the day around 11:30 AM, immediately after the Macy’s Parade on television ended.  Mom got up before 5 AM to start preparing the food.

We didn’t have turkey because Mom didn’t care for the taste of it.  Instead she baked a large chicken.  (It was the first thing we smelled, when we awakened on Thanksgiving morning.)  It was stuffed with her delicious apple and raisin dressing.  (In the south, stuffing is referred to as dressing.)  There were sweet potatoes covered with brown sugar and butter, along with canned peas and asparagus mixed together.  Fresh peas and asparagus were too expensive for us to buy and weren’t readily available.  We also had a can of Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce that was sliced and placed on a serving plate.  Some years brown ‘n serve rolls were on the menu.  For dessert, we had two pies:  pumpkin and mince meat.  Dad’s favorite was mince meat and I liked it too.  Mom made real whipped cream for the pumpkin pie.  It came from the inch or two of real cream that rose to the top of each milk bottle.

There were five of us at the table; my parents and two sisters.  A tablecloth was placed over the gray formica table with chrome legs and four red vinyl upholstered chairs.  The youngest child, my sister Nancy, sat on a small wooden chair next to my Mom.  I sat across from Dad and Martha sat across from Mom and Nancy.

Our kitchen was tiny but some of my best childhood memories are of meals we shared together in this room.  And Thanksgiving was always a very special meal.  We gave thanks to God for the food and then we ate and laughed and talked together as a family.

Every Thanksgiving I remember those family meals we shared in the 50’s in our little kitchen on Breckinridge Street.  And I thank God for those cherished memories!

Keep smilin’!

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Tipsy Cranberries

Dear Readers,

A few years ago, we spent the long Thanksgiving weekend with friends in San Francisco.  Our friend introduced us to some exciting restaurants downtown and also graciously gave me his recipe for cranberry sauce.  In fact, he wrote it on stationery from the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.  When you read the ingredients, you will see why I named it “Tipsy Cranberries”.

Tipsy Cranberry Sauce

1-12 oz. package fresh cranberries

1-1/2 cup zinfandel

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

Zest of 1 orange

1-1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

Dissolve sugars and spices in zinfandel.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 8 to 10 minutes until it becomes a littly syrupy.

Add cranberries and bring back to simmer.  Cook about 7 to 10 minutes until berries pop.

Cool and enjoy.

Note:  The amount of cinnamon (1-1/2 tablespoons) is correct.  This sauce is very spicy.  You can reduce the amount of cinnamon but then reduce the amount of cloves and allspice to 1/2 teaspoon the keep the ratio of the spices balanced.

Warning:  Do not serve this to anyone under 21 years old!  Just kidding!!!

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

During the summer of 2009, an orchid plant was given to me as a hostess gift for a dinner party.  It was blooming profusely and quite elegant.  I enjoyed it for a long time as orchid blooms stay on a plant for six weeks or more, and it seemed to be thriving sitting on my writing desk in front of a north-facing window.

The end of October arrived and it was time to close the Raleigh condo and pack up for California.  What was I going to do with this very vibrant orchid?  I couldn’t ask my daughter-in-law to look after it.  She was pregnant and busy with a two-year-old and had given up caring for houseplants, at least until her life wasn’t so hectic.  I looked at that plant and thought I just couldn’t  toss it into the garbage.

I made a deal with it.  If it could survive without water for six weeks until our Christmas visit, I would ask my son to water it every 4 to 6 weeks until our return in May.  What a surprise at Christmas; not only did it survive, but there was a small shoot poking up that would, in a few months, sprout blooms.

Sure enough throughout the winter, I reminded my son to water the orchid every 5 to 6 weeks until May.  We returned to Raleigh to find the orchid displaying a single stem brimming with 6 or 7 perfect white flowers.  The orchid was just plain beautiful!

Later in May during a visit from my daughter and son-in-law, the plant was accidentally knocked over, breaking off the flowering stem.  It was disappointing but I knew it was an accident.  I continued to care for the plant all summer long.  But no more blooms appeared.

A few weeks ago as we were preparing to leave Raleigh, another decision had to be made.  Should I just throw the plant away and forget about it?  Then I glanced down and noticed a new green leave about one inch long growing up.  The orchid was asking me to give it another chance.  It was given a thorough soaking in hopes that there will be sufficient moisture to sustain it until our annual Christmas visit.

This much I know for sure, my orchid is a survivor with an intense will to live.  Who am I to play God and determine the fate of this healthy specimen?  It will always have a home on my desk in my window.  I will love it, water it and keep it.  That’s all I can do.  The rest is up to the orchid.

Keep smilin’!

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Yummy Holiday Cake

Dear Readers,

The holiday season is swiftly approaching and here is a recipe for a special cake for those special meals.  It’s a jam cake that is delicious and easy to make.  It would also make a tasty hostess gift.  The recipe is from the cookbook “Kentucky  Hospitality” by the Kentucky Federation of Women’s Clubs.  By the way, this cake also freezes well.

Jam Cake

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

4 eggs, beaten

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon allspice

3 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup blackberry jam

1/4 cup orange juice

1 cup raisins

1 cup chopped nuts

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add beaten eggs.  Sift flour and measure; reserve 1/4 cup for dredging.  Sift remaining flour with baking soda and spices.  Add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk.  Stir in jam and orange juice.  Fold in raisins and nuts that have been dredged in reserved flour.  Turn into a well-greased, lightly floured (10-inch) tube pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1-1/2 hours.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin!

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Dear Readers,

Since we live in Raleigh, NC and Palm Springs, CA for 6 months each, I’ve often thought that if I ever penned my autobiography, it would be entitled “From Biscuits to Burritos”.  (You must have noticed by now that food is a significant part of my existence!)

We arrived in the “Land of Burritos” (CA) and have been spending quite a bit of time getting the condo in order.  It seems that an enterprising bird took up residence on the outdoor patio fan during the summer.  Must have been a big bird because the nest was fairly large, with lots of long twigs neatly arranged in a circular pattern.  The nest is vacant now so my husband removed it from the fan blade.  I hope the baby birds are having a wonderful life, now that they are out of the nest.

It’s nice to know our home was being inhabited while we were in Raleigh; and birds are much better inhabitants than ants or crickets!

We’ll spend the remainder of the week opening up our home.  There’s a patio to be cleaned, outdoor windows to be washed and smog inspections to be obtained for both cars.

Once we’re settled in, I hope our summer birds fly by for a visit.  But please, don’t build any nests until May!

Keep smilin’!

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