Tag Archives: Cooking

Cooking Up Something Good

using recipes from grandmother's cookbook

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.

~ Harriet van Horne

There’s something magical about cooking. More than just the science of diverse ingredients blending together into taste-tempting concoctions. The act of cooking for yourself or someone else, someone cooking for you, the simple slicing and stirring and combining of things brings a certain level of peace and satisfaction. At least to me, anyway.

I learned to cook by sitting on my mother’s kitchen counter, as did my brothers and sister. From the time we were old enough to hold a spoon without flipping the contents half-way across the kitchen, my mother would plop us on the counter and give us a bowl of things to stir together. I’m sure, especially when we were younger, this was her best way to keep tabs on us, to make sure we weren’t destroying some other part of the house. Eventually, we may have actually been a bit of help. But for me, the benefit of spending time sitting on that counter was to learn the magic of cooking. Of making something good.

In the days before Food Network and the Cooking Channel, there were only a handful of outside chefs to aid the process. My mother wasn’t a real fan of French food, so Julia Child never graced our television. About the only early television chef I remember watching was the Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith. Otherwise, the task of teaching us to cook fell to mothers and grandmothers, and for that, I am definitely most grateful. Admittedly, though, I do cook like a 1950s housewife preparing for a church potluck, but at least the food is good.

In recent years, as cooking shows have proliferated on television, I have become fascinated with the chefs behind the shows. How did they get into the business? Who taught them the ins and outs of the kitchen? Luckily, I’ve had the chance to meet some of them at cooking shows or book signings and hear some of their stories.

But what about you? What’s your cooking story?

Some Chefs I Have Met

Patrick Meeting Rachael Ray Rachael Ray came to our local book store just a few days before her surgery, so she wasn’t able to give a talk to the waiting group. She did, however, sign books. Here’s my husband getting our book signed, and blushing because Rachael said he was a “snazzy dresser.”
Bobby Flay cooking at the Fabulous Food Show in Cleveland.Bobby Flay cooking
Bobby Flay signing autographs Bobby Flay signing cookbooks.

Alton Brown and Patrick Patrick meeting his favorite, Alton Brown.

The Kachureks and Ming Tsai The Kachurek Family meets Ming Tsai at a book signing.

Alton Brown and Lynda My turn to get a picture with Alton Brown.

[Note: This post is #3 of 26 of the April A-to-Z Challenge. Please see the button on the right of the page for more information.
Last year’s “C” post was: Chapel Cars.]


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Monday Moments: Santa Hats

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas. ~ Peg Bracken

Don’t you just love these little guys?

Aren’t they just too cute?

Well, I thought so, anyway.

Last week was the week of holiday parties where my husband and I work. Only one of the several gatherings was a potluck, however, so I only had to cook for one event. Yea! Usually by this time of the holiday season, I’m up to my nose in cookie dough and bakery items, but this was not an ordinary year by any means. (More on that later in the week…….)

After pondering my requirements for this year’s holiday potluck dish, I decided to try something I had squirreled away on my “Christmas Ideas” board on Pinterest. I do so love that site — that I was able to quickly find a recipe I had seen a while ago proves its worth to me!

Any-who…. That picture up there is my handiwork!

I made Santa Hats! Edible ones, at that.

These little guys are the most amazing combination of tastes — a chocolate brownie base, topped with marscarpone buttercream icing, topped with a fresh strawberry. Yum!

Actually, it’s more like


They are fairly easy to make, taste phenomenal (that marscarpone icing got rave reviews!), and were the hit of the party! If you have some last holiday parties to go to, I highly recommend these little cuties!

If you’d like to give it a try, the recipe I used was from a blog called Daisy’s World, except her’s were more dainty and far neater than mine turned out to be…..

Hope your week heading into the holidays will be a good one!


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Monday Moments: Potluck

The term potluck comes from the traditional practice (not that it’s entirely unknown among us moderns) of never throwing anything away. Meal leftovers would be put into a pot and kept warm, and could be used to feed people on short notice. This practice was especially prevalent in taverns and inns in medieval times, so that when you showed up for a meal, you took the “luck of the pot.” ~ Ken at The Straight Dope

It’s that time of year, again.

Potluck season.

Didn’t we just finish with the summer potlucks? No?


*sigh* That’s what a girl gets for losing so much time this year.

I swear I was just fixing summer salads for our end-of-the-summer picnic potluck at work. Now it’s time to bring out the holiday potluck recipes, as between the two of us in our household, I think we could attend about 6 different parties in the next week! Yowza!

So, my perennial quest is for something easy yet stunning, fun and playful but really good. Something memorable, something people will request the recipe for, yet something that I don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen making.

*humming the tune for The Impossible Dream*

Yeah, right. There’s got to be something out there, yes?


Pretty please with whipped cream and sugar on top??

I know I squirreled away some holiday recipe finds on Pinterest, so I’ll go check there. Or I could look through one of the bazillion cookbooks on my shelves.

But I’d rather hear from you….. I know you must have some fantastic, amazing recipes that draw “oooh” and “ahhhh” comments.

What’s your favorite thing to take to a potluck dinner?

(Or, for that matter, what do you *not* like to see at a potluck?)

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Monday Moments: Cooking Dinner

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. ~ Harriet van Horne

My husband’s birthday was Friday, and over the weekend, while we entertained family for a birthday visit, I fixed a birthday dinner for my husband.

I used to cook a whole lot more than I have done lately. In fact, since I injured my hand cooking Easter dessert in late April, my actual cooking and baking has been rather limited. For several weeks, we had the luxury of friends and neighbors bringing in wonderfully fabulous food. Since then, we’ve made do, as my reluctance to cook to my usual level was matched by the ongoing weakness in my right hand. And the inclination to remove all glass bakeware from my kitchen!! But as you saw a couple weeks ago here on the blog, I did whip together a few things for the county fair. So I decided to give the whole birthday dinner a try.

And, I discovered, I have missed cooking! The picture above is the birthday dinner I made, combining family dishes from both his and my family. I used an old favorite for the main dish – his mom’s Breaded Chicken recipe, known in our house as February Chicken (as the breading is Flour, then Eggs, then Breadcrumbs). Fried briefly to set the coating, it is then baked in the oven for an hour or so until done. Instead of my usual mashed potato side dish, I made a hashbrown casserole in the crockpot, which turned out so-so. A garden salad, some broccoli to add color.

And for dessert? I was all set to order him a birthday cake when he decided he wanted something with apples. So I turned to one of my mom’s recipes, one that I can’t remember why I haven’t made him before, for Apple Cake with a cinnamon-vanilla warm sauce over the top. De-lic-ious!!

He enjoyed his dinner, and the leftovers. So my return to cooking was a success!

And I’ll definitely be making that apple cake again, as it was every bit as good as I remembered from when my Mom made it.

Now I need to get busy deciding what to make for our anniversary dinner in a few weeks……

Hmmmm… Maybe you can help!

What’s your favorite dinner to cook for special occasions?

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A Life in Pictures

If God had intended us to follow recipes,
He wouldn’t have given us grandmothers.
~Linda Henley

I’d like you to meet my paternal grandmother. Grandma Nellie lived in the same small town I grew up in, just across the length of the town from my house. I could see her house out the front window of our house. In fact, my mother and I would watch the barn behind her house every weeknight. As soon as my mother saw those barn doors close, she would head into the kitchen to put the final preparations on dinner as that signaled my father was done for the day and headed home.

I have only vague memories of Grandma Nellie. I remember her house, surrounded by farmland, barns, grain silos, and gardens. The old horse trough in front of it that had an old pump. The chicken coop door that I spent hours hammering nails into while she babysat me. Her refrigerator, filled with homemade treats and home-canned foods. The old pot-belly stove in the sitting room, next to her rocker, and the couch with her crocheted afghan across the back. Her dresser, holding the box of powder and antique glass perfume bottle that smelled of lilacs. I remember how strong her arms were. And spending lots of time sitting at her kitchen table watching her cook.

The stories I most remember about her involved cooking, as that’s where she spent a lot of her time. I, of course, always wanted to help, and she was patient enough to let me, even though now I realize I caused more trouble than I actually helped in any way. One of her prize canning recipes was the one for her pickled beets. I did not like them, but they were the most beautiful color. Their juice was vibrantly scarlet. I loved the color so much she would save me all the leftover juice so that I could fill the sink with water and soap bubbles, pour in the juice, and play with a mound of scarletly-pink bubbles until they disappeared. My hands would be stained pink for days! One very memorable time, she indulged my whim to help her fry some liver for dinner, not anticipating the abandon with which I would toss the floured piece into the cast iron skillet of hot oil. She scrambled for a bucket of ice to cover the burns on my arm before shuttling me into the pick-up truck and driving me uptown to my parents, who were attending a meeting at the church. From the time in her kitchen, I learned the best way to roll biscuits, how to make an amazing white gravy, and the recipe for pumpkin bread that I still use today. I was only eight when she passed away.

As I’ve gone through the first round of family photographs and started organizing them into family groupings, I’ve found a mix of pictures of her, so I thought I’d share some moments of her life as I’ve discovered them.

A life in pictures.

Grandma Nellie was born in Kentucky in January 1887. The earliest picture I have ever found of her is, unfortunately, the one in the worst shape, and, of course, undated. I’m guessing she was probably four or five at the time, but that’s just a guess.
The small image at the top of this post came from a larger picture I had not seen until recently, a family portrait of her family taken when she was about thirteen. Her youngest sister, Conie, was born in 1891, so I’m going with the later date on the photo of around 1900. Somewhere between 1891 and 1900, the family moved from Kentucky to Illinois, although I have yet to learn the reason why they moved.

Nellie, on the left, with her younger sister, Conie.

When I was growing up, my family used to say that I looked exactly like how my Grandma Nellie looked in this picture. I knew for sure we had the same light blue eyes. As a child, I had long hair that I often wore in two braids down my back, like she has here.

One of my favorite photos - all the sisters.

I simply adore this photograph, with their beautiful dresses and exquisitely done hair. This photo makes me wish I could enter the moment it was taken, just to listen in on the conversations that must have been going on as they were getting ready. Taken July 1903.

High School graduation

In my stack of family documents, I have the diploma she is holding in this picture.

With her sister, Conie

This photo is another one where I wish I knew the context around it. Were they dressed up just to get their pictures taken? Was it for some special occasion?

Sisters and friends

Wedding Portrait

I have found no other photographs of her wedding, nor any of my grandfather in anything but his later years.

My father was her first-born child. Taken April 1914.

Aunt Edith, Grandma Nellie, and my dad, 1954

This photograph was taken in front of my grandmother’s house. My grandfather died in 1951, and she lived with my father and his sister, Catherine.

Grandma Nellie holding me in her lap.
The last picture I have of Grandma Nellie, taken approximately 1972.


Filed under History, Life