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Culinary Conversation: Passing of the school bus brings back memories of those fall mornings

Published 10:01am Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Although my children have long ago reached the age where school days are behind them, this time of the year reawakens memories of those never to be forgotten years.

I remember experiencing a variety of emotions, none of which I would have felt comfortable in sharing with them at that time. For five long years, they are underfoot and noise and can oft times almost drive you to the point of distraction; but then when that magic calendar date announces their eligibility to attend those schools of higher learning; it can be mighty emotional to snip those apron strings and entrust them in someone else’s care.

To this day, I can remember a barrage of tears that laid skillfully hidden behind my forced smile … as I waved goodbye to that school bus. I think that it was probably from that day on, that I realized my inability to completely hide my feelings; whether it be from just my own children or those that I babysat for during the day.

Old habits are hard to break, and to this day I find a compulsion to raise my arm in greeting as the school bus passes my home! These large yellow vehicles are carrying some very precious cargo, so give them some wide berth when we meet them on the road!

Many of our little ones will be greeting school year with a brand new lunch bucket, so this should be a reminder to the parents to mark those buckets in at least one or more areas with the child’s name. If the lunch you send with your little one needs to be kept cool, be remindful to include a cooling pack. Today’s youth have such a variety of lunch box styles designed to keep food both cold and piping hot, so packing tasty, healthful lunches is certainly far superior to what it was in the days of my childhood. Round this school meal off with a nice crispy cold apple. Not only are they nourishing, but apple seem to possess a somewhat unique way of cleansing the teeth, when the time is not convenient for that after meal brushing.

Either of these first two recipes could provide a nourishing repast for your child’s lunch thermos:

Old Fashioned Veggie Soup

1 soup bone
1 pound lean beef, diced
2 carrots, diced
11 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 cups peas
12 onions, diced
1 cup tomatoes
3 stalks celery, diced
1 cup sliced okra
1 – 4 ounce package noodles

Bring your soup bone, beef and a good three quarts of water to a boil, then reduce the heat. Allow this mixture to simmer, covered for a good hour and a half longer. Then, add the remainder of the ingredients, again simmer, covered for an additional 30 minutes or just until the veggies test tender.

Timely Trivia: In the early days, grocery and meat market butchers endeared themselves to the housewives by offering them a large meat bone, as a tasty treat, to be enjoyed by their family dog. In the homes of many of these ladies, that well intended soup bone took a devious route before it ever landed within the eager jaws of the anxious pet. It first endured a reasonable period of time in the soup kettle, so the boiling water could extract every last bit of seasoned nourishment to prepare it for a nourishing and palatable meal by the time the family pet had the opportunity to wrap his jaws around it, I doubt there was much flavor existing.

Homemaker’s Hint: One of our readers has suggested that to remove stains from glass, you should wet the glass with cold water, then rub with baking soda. Afterwards, rinse the glass object, then dry thoroughly.

** You must have long range goals to keep from being frustrated by short-range failures.

Although I must admit, the majority of our cheesecake recipes call for graham cracker  crusts, but if you wish to vary from that; I would suggest you try purchasing a box of plain vanilla wafers, and see if this variation comes up to your expectations.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake

32 vanilla wafer cookies
1/2 stick of margarine

Using your rolling pin, roll the cookies into crumbs, then melt the margarine and stir into these crumbs. Press this resulting mixture very firmly into the bottom of your spring form pan. (Note I used an eight inch pan.) Slide this prepared crust into a 325 degree oven for 10 minutes, remove, then cool on wire rack.


2 1/2 – 8 ounce packages softened cream cheese
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 eggs
2 teaspoons lemon juice
zest of one lemon


1/4 pound (3/4 cup) washed rhubarb
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup fresh strawberries


32 vanilla wafers
1/4 cup unsalted butter

Set your oven for 325 degrees. Roll out the vanilla wafers, then place these cookie crumbs into a bowl. Melt the butter and stir into these crumbs, then immediately press this crumb mixture into the bottom of your spring form pan and bake it for 10 minutes at 325 degrees.  At the end of this baking period, place it onto a wire rack to cool. To prepare  the filling, beat the sugar into the cream cheese until it becomes very smooth. Set aside. Proceed to beat the eggs, adding one at a time, until they both appear well blended, then start beating the two tablespoons of flour into this. Gradually stir in both the lemon juice and zest and pour into pan spreading level. Return it to an oven of 325 degrees and proceed to bake it for a good 40-45 minutes.
It should appear slightly golden around the edges. Immediately place onto a rack to cool. To prepare your topping, combine the rhubarb with just one quarter cup of the strawberries in a saucepan and bring this mixture  to a very low boil over a medium high heat. Cook and stir this mixture for approximately six to seven minutes, then just one minute before it is finished, add the entire remainder of berries and immediately remove from the heat.
Once your cheesecake is baked, spread it evenly with this warm topping, but be sure to leave a border around the edge. Proceed to run a very very thin knife between the pan and the cake; then allow this to cool at room temperature. Once it is cooled, it will need to be chilled for at least two hours before you will be able to serve it.

Did you know that the very first shipment of hybrid seed corn was sold for $15.00 a bushel in April of 1916?

** Dare to swallow your pride occasionally, it’s non-fattening!

Cheesy Dip

8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 – 10.5 can chili
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Carefully spread the cream cheese evenly onto the bottom of a microwaveable pie plate, then place the chili and cheddar cheese on top of this. Place it into your microwave just until it is melted (approximately 45-60 seconds). Once heated, sprinkle with the cilantro. Serve with corn chips.

** You know that you will never succeed in climbing that ladder of success … if you refuse to take your hands out of your pockets.

For some time, experts have been studying the possibility that artificial colorings and food preservatives could be what is causing some children to display overactive and inattentive and impulsive behavior. After quite extensive investigation, it was found that those students which had ingested additive laced drinks actually increased hyperactive behavior by somewhat of a degree.

A touch of levity: Two grossly inebriated gentlemen stumbled out of a neighborhood bar. They have pretty well wasted an entire evening, so have no idea what time it might be. This is clearly evident when one man glances up toward the heavens and questions “Is that the sun or the moon up there?” the other man quickly answers “How would I know? I don’t even live around here!”

Honeydew Surprise

1 honeydew melon
1 cup mandarin oranges
1 cup chunk pineapple (drained)
1 package lime gelatin
cottage cheese
French dressing
salad greens

Dissolve your gelatin in one cup of boiling water, then proceed to place into the refrigerator and chill until partially set. Fold in both the oranges and pineapple. Peel the melon and cut a slice from one end. Remove the seeds and fill the melon center with your lime gelatin mixture. Wrap in plastic wrap, then immediately refrigerate until quite firm. When it comes time to serve, slice and serve on a bed of greens, spoon the cottage cheese on top; then serve with the French dressing.

Homemaker’s Hint: Endeavor to begin a photo album at the beginning of each year. This helps to provide a visual diary of your family life. Even include snapshots or pictures you have obtained from distant relatives.

** In order to laugh at yourself, you must forgive yourself for not being perfect.

What could be tastier to serve with some homemade baked beans and potato salad than a healthy serving of:

Flaming Franks

10 frankfurters, quartered
1 large can pineapple tidbits, undrained
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1 cup peeled orange sections
8 maraschino cherries
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup Cointreau

Begin by mixing together the sugar, cornstarch, marmalade and vinegar in your saucepan. To this add both the pineapple juice as well as the pineapple. Place this over your burner and proceed to cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened. Then, immediately place into your chafing dish; add the frankfurters, cherries and orange sections and proceed to heat this mixture through.
When ready to serve, simply pour over the Cointreau over the top, light a match to it, and you are ready to serve!

Timely Trivia: Frankfurters could almost be considered a national dish here in our country, and we are fortunate that they are available year round! Always make it a point to refrigerate your packaged frankfurters in their original wrapper, but do not store them for over a week. They are particularly tasty when accompanied by sauerkraut, potato salad and maybe even a tasty dish of baked beans!

Food Facts: Frankfurters can be made from beef, veal, pork or even a combination of all three of these!  They can even be purchased in six inch, 12 inch or bite size; and certainly are popular (with all ages) in this country.

**Well, believe it or not … according to researchers  findings from a university located in England, they have come to the conclusion that ordinary fruit juice or mixtures which have been spiked with commercial additives, are equivalent to 2-4 snack sized bags of candy. Upon further deduction, they have come to the definite conclusion that additive laced drinks increases hyperactive behavior by 10 percent.

To help instill good eating habits in our children, strive to set a good example. Whether you are aware of it or not, you unwittingly create many of the eating habits of your child. If your child witnesses a reluctance to eat certain foods, he is more likely to follow in your footsteps and follow suit, for and to a great extent he is patterning his life after you! Offering him small portions of a variety of food does not tend to overwhelm him, and is more apt to encourage him to give each a try.

Cocktail Sauce

1 1/2 cups chili sauce
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup vinegar
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped celery
2 teaspoons sugar
4 drops Tabasco sauce

Blend ingredients until smooth; cover and refrigerate overnight. (Note: this sauce can be kept safely for several weeks if refrigerated; it is delicious with any cold seafood and yields over three cups.)

Timely Trivia: Thirty years ago, no one had ever even heard of plastic garbage bags, so usually regular brown paper bags were used in our trash cans.

**For the reader questioning the definition of “Quinoa”, I am told it is a chewy, nutty tasting grain that is packed with protein, Lysine (an amino acid that helps tissues grow and repair themselves) and blood building iron. Many refer to this as the super grain of the future.

Butterscotch Cheesecake

1 – 12 ounce package butterscotch chips
1 – 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 – 14 ounce can condensed cream
1 cup chopped nuts, of your choice
1 egg
1/3 cup butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Melt together the butterscotch chips and the butter. Stir the crumbs and nuts into this then press just half of the resulting mixture into the bottom of a greased 9×13 inch pan, and set aside. Beat the cheese until it becomes fluffy, then beat in the milk, extract and egg and beat until mixture is smooth. Pour this into your prepared crust, dot with any remaining crumb mixture.
Place into oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the filling. Cake will be done when toothpick comes out clean. Allow cooling for a while on the countertop, then chill in the refrigerator.

** Goodness consists not in the outward things that we do, but in the inward thing that we are.

Homemaker’s Hint: Did you know that even the most excellent vacuum cleaners would not necessarily capture all of the dust and debris. Some of the waste does get blown around, and some of it can even be veered back into the room through the exhaust port; but the particles most likely to escape filtration are miniscule.


4 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup cocoa
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 cup butter, melted


3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 drops green food coloring
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1-2 tablespoons milk
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, then grease and flour an 11×17-inch pan. Beat the eggs and sugar together until thickened, then add the cocoa, flour and extract. Gradually stir in the butter. Pour mixture into your prepared pan and bake for 15-20 minutes. Avoid overbaking and cool completely.
For the frosting, cream the confectioner’s sugar, butter, food coloring and extract together. Add a bit of milk to make it spread-able, then spread it evenly over the cooled cake. Melt the chocolate and the butter together in the top of your double boiler. Carefully brush this over the frosted cake, then place into the refrigerator to harden. Cut into 1×2-inch bars.

** Have you ever happened to notice how other people’s faults are so much more obvious than our own?

Culinary Conversation encourages reader’s recipe contributions and requests, helpful hints and timely trivia. Simply phone them to (269) 683-7266 or mail them to 527 Philip Rd. Thank you!

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