Backyard basil, bugs and berries

Before we left on vacation earlier this month, I twice picked down my burgeoning basil plants, freezing the flavorful leaves in cigar-like rolls to use later. In the middle of winter, I can slice off some to throw in a pot of marinara sauce or even make fresh pesto.

But since then, I have noticed that some pest has been eating holes in the leaves, devouring not only the basil, but also the clematis and a few other flowers in our yard. Darn earwigs!

Yes, I have determined that those nasty little bugs are likely to blame for the damage. So I dug out the info for trapping the buggers that has previously been printed in the Globe during an earlier earwig infestation, and I figured others out there might have the same problem.

I recently read that one way to get rid of earwigs involves recycling an issue of the Daily Globe: Lightly roll up a some wet newspaper and secure it with a rubber band. Place the rolled up newspaper near where the earwigs have been spotted. Since they like damp, dark places, they will climb inside the newspaper, and the next morning you can just throw it out, earwigs and all. I haven’t tried that yet, but managed to get quite a number of the critters (there must have been close to 100 in one of the larger containers!) with this setup: Use a recycled plastic container (margarine, yogurt, cottage cheese) with a removable lid. Inside the container, pour a layer of corn syrup followed by a layer of oil and then a few dashes of soy sauce. Cut or poke several small holes in the lid of the container and seal it up. Dig a shallow hole so that the container is just about flush with the ground. (I pile landscaping mulch up around it.) Attracted by the smell of the soy sauce, the earwigs crawl inside, but can’t get out once coated with the syrup and oil.

That’s my preferred “recipe” for dealing with earwigs. Now on to a recipe of the more delectable kind.

One of my good friends, Kris “Tooje” Tutje, recently discovered that she has a mulberry tree in her backyard. She enlisted the help of two other friends — Paula Stock to pick the berries and Myra Palmer to turn them into something delicious. So Myra made up a batch of jam, using what she touts as the easiest jam recipe ever.

Luckily, I was involved only in the jam-sampling part of this endeavor. I had never tasted mulberry jam before (or a mulberry, for that matter), but can report that it was delicious. The original recipe calls for blueberries, so if you don’t have access to a mulberry tree, blueberries will suffice.

Mulberry Jam

4 cups fresh mulberries (or blueberries)

2 cups sugar

One 3-ounce package lemon gelatin

In a large saucepan, slightly crush 2 cups mulberries. Add remaining berries and sugar and mix well. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat; stir in gelatin until dissolved.

Pour hot jam into sterilized jars or containers. Cover and cool. Refrigerate. Makes 4 half-pints.

Bugging out

As part of our weekday morning routine, Hubby Bryan and I have devised a new form of workout. We call it the Walk and Swat.

Our year-round ritual — on days when it isn’t snowing, below zero temps or raining heavily — is to go for a quick walk every morning. We don’t go far, probably about a mile, just enough to get the body moving and muscles stretched out.

On Monday, as we headed down the street, we suddenly realized we were under sneak attack. Swarms of mosquitoes were lurking just around the corner from our house, and as we passed their headquarters they surreptitiously began their blood-sucking quest. Pretty soon, Bryan was swatting bugs off my back, and I was returning the favor.

We must have been quite the sight to behold as we progressed down the street, alternately doing body scans and smacking the tiny tiny pests as we spotted them. But it was certainly more of a workout than just walking.

I have to admit to a bit of paranoia where mosquitoes are concerned. In the past, I’ve had the misfortune of several bad reactions to bug bites that have turned into serious infections. Over the last two very dry years, mosquitoes haven’t been much of a worry, but this year I am resigned to covering myself with bug spray. I just didn’t think to do it before our morning walk.

With the way the mosquito population is booming this year and inability to treat our yard with a hose-end sprayer repellant due to the continued watering ban, I don’t think I’ll be able to venture out to get the mail out of the mailbox without the proper head-to-toe precautions.

Another thing that is booming this year due to our recent rains is my herb garden. I love to pick the big leaves of basil and scatter them over roasted vegetables or in salads.

Monday is salad day at our house, so each week I’ve been experimenting with different toppings and homemade dressing choices. So far, this lemon dressing is one of my favorites. Since I was out of honey, I used 1 teaspoon agave nectar in its place. Besides on a lettuce salad, it would be good drizzled over roasted broccoli, cauliflower or asparagus.

Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette

Whisk together 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt, ¼ teaspoon grated lemon zest, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion, 2 teaspoons honey, ⅛ teaspoon black pepper and ⅛ teaspoon salt.

I hear from my gardening friends that there is also a bumper crop of radishes, so a recent email from Laura Gjerde of Wilmont is particularly timely.

“Don’t know if I’m the Johnny Come Lately to the roasted radish party, but if you’ve never tried them, you should — a great way to use an early garden abundance,” writes Laura. “Simply cut them in half (quarter the big ones). Toss in extra virgin olive oil to coat. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and dried thyme leaves; Roast at 450 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. They get very sweet and are really good — who knew?”

Thanks for the tip, Laura. I didn’t know about roasting radishes and will have to give it a try.

If you’ve got a recipe or method for seasonal produce, be sure to share it by emailing me at brickers@dglobe.com.

Gremlins in the garden and the recipe file

I imagine that a few rhubarb patches are under water after our recent drenchings from Mother Nature, and if not, they likely took a beating in Monday’s gale-force winds.
Unfortunately, one of the rhubarb recipes I printed on Monday also ran afoul when a couple of key words were omitted. Avid cooks likely lifted a brow of doubt when they spotted that Myra Palmer’s bar recipe called for more than a cup of cornstarch. Yes, that was a typo that got past my recipe proofreader. A correction was printed in the next day’s paper, but once again, here is the recipe in its entirety.I have personally double-checked all the ingredients this time around!

Rhubarb Oatmeal Bars

For crust, combine ½ cup chopped pecans, 1½ cups rolled oats, 1 cup brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1½ cups flour, 1 cup softened butter and ¼ teaspoon baking soda; mix until crumbly. Pat half of the mixture into a 9- by 13-inch pan.
For filling, in a medium saucepan combine 4 cups chopped rhubarb, 1¼ cups sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch and ¼ cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is clear. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Pour filling over crust. Sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture.
Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Allow to cool before slicing into serving-sized bars.

When Myra came toting that pan of bars to our house, she also contributed another dish featuring another seasonal favorite — asparagus, picked fresh from her own patch, no doubt.

Asparagus Casserole

Place 1 pound fresh or frozen asparagus, cut into pieces, or 2 10-ounce cans sliced asparagus in a lightly buttered casserole dish.
Combine one 10-ounce can cream of celery soup and 2 cups grated cheddar cheese. Top asparagus with 4 hard-cooked eggs, thinly sliced, soup mixture, then ¾ cup coarsely crushed saltine or Ritz crackers. Dot with 1 teaspoon butter.
Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

I’m always on the lookout for new versions of the classic egg bake, and this one is a good choice for those who have an active asparagus patch or who hunt up spears in area ditches.

Ham & Asparagus Bake

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9- by 13-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.
Unroll one can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls and press dough into bottom of dish and ½ inch up the sides. Sprinkle 1 cup chopped asparagus and 1 cup chopped ham evenly over dough.
In a medium bowl, combine 4 eggs, ½ cup milk and ½ teaspoon ground mustard and whisk until well-combined. Pour mixture over top of ham and asparagus. Sprinkle 2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, colby-Monterey Jack blend or whatever you prefer) evenly over top.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Some things run in the family

For a few days recently, it felt like I was in a scene from a science fiction movie. It appeared as if some alien creature was trying to fight its way out of my neck.

It all started with some slight swelling in the general neck region. As one who has previously experienced several nasty reactions to bug bites, I assumed that was the case once again, and when the swelling got worse, headed into urgent care. Looking at my neck, the doc agreed with my assessment, and since the vessels in the neck lead directly to the heart he prescribed a strong regimen of antibiotics. Per previous experience, I figured it would clear up in a couple of days.

In the next few days, I noticed that the swelling had gotten bumpier, but couldn’t get a good look at my neck in the mirror. I also experienced some strange pangs in the general region, but didn’t give those much thought.

Until I happened to show my affliction to a co-worker.

“That looks like shingles,” she said.

Bingo!

I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before. Shingles — a painful, blistering skin rash caused by the chickenpox virus that stays dormant in the body until reactivated — tend to run in my family. My grandfather Harry is the first I remember having them. My dad was plagued by them — he had them on his head and suffered from post-herpetic neuralgia, a lingering pain that results from shingles — for the last few years of his life. My uncle has had them. My cousin has had them. My sister has had them.

Yep. While shingles aren’t a hereditary condition, there seems to be a predisposition for them in the Rickers clan.(Side note: I didn’t have the chicken pox until I was 26 years old. I always thought I had some sort of natural immunity to them, until I came to work at the Daily Globe and after doing a series on preschools and day cares woke up one morning with scratchy red pumps on my stomach.)

So back to the doctor I went, and this time it was obvious that the “alien” wasn’t caused by a bug bite but was indeed shingles.

The blisters and swelling have now subsided, and every once in a while I still feel an odd prickly feeling on my neck, but I think my case was relatively mild. I don’t think post-herpetic neuralgia will be a long-term complication for me. But I now have greater sympathy for the pain my father experienced. He always said it was like bugs crawling around in his head, and that’s a good description of one of the shingles sensations.


Onto a more pleasant topic — getting a recipe from one of my non-shingled relatives. Niece Gretchen, who lives in Baxter, has become a superb photographer, carrying on the Rickers family tradition of operating a photo studio. She takes beautiful photographs, specializing in newborn and senior portraits.

But Gretchen’s not the most adventurous eater, which might account for a general lack of interest in culinary endeavors. She does, however, have a few recipes in her repertoire that have become specialties. She dutifully sent me one such recipe, proudly noting, “I even make the sauce from scratch!”

Chicken Alfredo Roll-Ups

In a medium saucepan, melt ½ cup butter over medium heat. Add ½ teaspoon minced garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add 2 ounces cream cheese and whisk until melted and smooth. Whisk in 2 cups heavy cream or half and half.
Season with 2 teaspoons (or less, to personal taste) garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and whisk frequently until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Stir in 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, and when melted, remove from heat.

Spray an 8- by 8-inch pan with non-stick spray and pour in ½ cup of the alfredo sauce to cover the bottom of the pan.

Cook 9 lasagna noodles until al-dente; drain and rinse with cold water to prevent sticking. Lay noodles out individually and blot dry with paper towel.

Spread about 2 tablespoons alfredo sauce over each noodle and sprinkle with oregano and garlic salt. Using 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken, divide it evenly among the noodles. Sprinkle each with shredded mozzarella cheese. To roll, start at one end and roll the noodle over the toppings. (You will need to lift the noodle a little to prevent squishing out the inside ingredients.)

Place the roll-ups in the pan, seam-side down. Pour the remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with additional cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

 

On the hunt for good recipes

When my mom, Dorthy Rickers (aka DotMom), was alive, she was active in a several local clubs and organizations. One of her involvements was the 20th Century Club — a women’s study organization that continues to meet on a monthly basis, culminating in an annual spring luncheon. DotMom, being the avid recipe gatherer, would use such events to hunt down fodder for her Daily Globe “Mixing & Musing” column.
In this blog, I’ve tried to continue in that tradition, but don’t have the time or opportunity to seek out recipes through such organizations. But lucky for me, the 20th Century gals were thinking of my mom and me.
“Today the 20th Century Club had their May luncheon,” emailed Ruth Nystrom. “We talked about how your mom always wrote an article and shared recipes after the luncheon. I suggested we email you about the luncheon and share the names of the dishes that we enjoyed.”
With help from Ruth and a bit of emailing and prodding, I managed to gather a few of the luncheon  recipes: Reuben Hot Dish from Jackie Moore; Chicken Casserole from Pat Honius; and Lime Buttermint Dessert from Ruth Nystrom.

Reuben Casserole

In a 12- by 7-inch pan, layer 5 ounces corned beef, cut into smaller pieces; 1-pound can sauerkraut, including juice (Jackie uses Bavarian sauerkraut with caraway seeds); ¼ cup salad dressing mixed with ¼ cup Thousand Island dressing; 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese; ¼ cup melted butter mixed with 3 to 4 cups cubed rye bread.
Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes more at 400 degrees. Cut into squares to serve.
“Many times I double the recipe and put it into a 9- by 13-inch pan,” notes Jackie. “I usually use the juice from one can of sauerkraut when doubling the recipe.”

Pat Honius was unable to attend the 20th Century Club luncheon, but she concocted this casserole in advance and dropped it off at the home of hostess LeAnn Meyer. It may seem to have a lot of liquid ingredients but does not end up soupy, Pat noted. Since it makes a big batch, she has made it a couple of times for group events.
“We served this at an area Christian education meeting in Fulda many years ago,” Pat said.

Chicken Casserole

In ¼ cup margarine, sauté ½ cup chopped onion and 1 cup chopped celery. Combine sautéed vegetables with 2 cans cream of mushroom soup, 2 cans cream of chicken soup, 1½ cups evaporated milk and 1 large can chow mein noodles. Mix well.
Cook and debone one 3 to 4 pound chicken. Add in chicken meat and 2 cups Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing. Mix well.
Pour mixture into a 9- by 14-inch pan (or divide among two smaller pans). Top with 1½ cups almonds (optional) that have been sautéed in margarine.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or longer if the dish has been made ahead and refrigerated.

Lime Buttermint Dessert

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups crushed pineapple, undrained, with 1 small package lime Jell-O (use no water) and one 10-ounce package marshmallows. Mix well and let set in refrigerator in covered bowl overnight.
Whip 1 pint whipping cream. Add in 1 teaspoon pineapple flavoring, ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract and a 7-ounce package buttermints, crushed. Fold this cream mixture into the pineapple-Jell-O mixture. Put in 9- by 13-inch pan, cover and freeze.
“The only place I found the pineapple flavoring was at HyVee,” writes Nystrom. “The recipe is an older one, when buttermints came in 7-ounce boxes. Now the boxes (found at Fareway) come in 5.5-ounce size. I bought two boxes and weighed out 2 more ounces. The rest go in a candy dish.”

I would encourage readers out there to follow the 20th Century Club members’ lead. If you are at an event and sample something tasty, encourage the maker to send me the recipe. Like DotMom, I’m always on the hunt for good recipes.
Recipes can be emailed to me at brickers@dglobe.com; or via regular mail: Lagniappe, c/o Daily Globe, Box 639, Worthington 56187.

Cheesy update and rhubarb request

In my last blog post, which (once again) focused on the “Growing Up in Worthington” Facebook site, I had intended to clue you all in on a phone call that I received from a former school cook. But alas, I got a bit wordy and the recipes got a bit long, and I just couldn’t fit it in.

But I was delighted to hear from former District 518 longtime employee Judy Eckerson, who spent 10 years as a school cook and another 18 as the district’s food service supervisor. She confirmed that the much-loved pizza burger recipe was instigated by the late Ella Mae Sall. And the recipe that has been printed here is accurate, with one major exception. According to Judy, it wasn’t Velveeta in the pizza burgers, but just regular ol’ cheddar. (I had suspected that, as I knew it was unlikely that Velveeta would be one of the commodities available to school cooks.) So, to be authentic to the way the pizza burgers were back in the day, she advised you use cheddar.

Judy was also heartened to hear that former students had a hankering for some of the food cooked up in the cafeterias.

“I can’t believe how they’re raving over the food,” she said. “We didn’t know it back then.”

With that bit of business taken care of, it’s on to some seasonal fare. Before it got covered up by a load of dirt for our neighbor’s new garage, I had noted that their rhubarb patch was beginning to sprout stalks and leaves. Since that was a couple weeks ago now, I assume that other patches are by now close to bearing usable “fruit.” So I beseech all of you avid readers once again to share your favorite rhubarb recipes. (Yes, Audrey R. – I know your favorite is the much-reprinted “Quintessential” Rhubarb Dessert from DotMom’s column!) We love those oldie-but-goodies, but would also like to see some new options.

In the meantime, I turn to a relatively new cookbook that has come across my desk. “Good Food from Mrs. Sundberg’s Kitchen” was devised and assembled by Holly Harden, a writer for Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” with the forward written by Keillor himself. It was published by Adventure Publications: www. adventurepublications.net.

“Well, it’s here at last, the Cookbook, years in the making, and Mrs. Sundberg couldn’t be happier,” writes Harden on the book’s website. “ Last I saw her, she was napping by a window, the Cookbook open on her lap, her apron askew, cheeks pink, and a smile on her face. I didn’t wake her. Naps, I am told, are one of the most civilizing things we can manage, and never wake a napping person unless an emergency arises. As for the book, you’ll find it full of good and simple recipes for the kinds of food your mom makes, or your grandma back in the day, and most of it feels familiar.”

The book is organized by months, beginning with September – “the real start of the year at Mrs. Sundberg’s house.” Rhubarb shows up several times throughout the year (evidently Mrs. Sundberg must freeze the stalks for later use ) including a pie for September Labor Day weekend at the Cabin; in a sauce over ham at Easter; and in a cake for a July family reunion. Here’s the cake recipe:

Rhubarb Custard Cake

1 box yellow cake mix

4 cups diced rhubarb

¾ cup sugar

1 pint whipping cream

Mix cake according to the directions on the box. Pour into a greased 9- by 13-inch pan. Cover the batter with the rhubarb. Sprinkle the sugar over. Pour the whipping cream over the top.

Bake 55 to 60 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve warm.

Send your rhubarb faves to brickers@dglobe.com; or via regular mail to Lagniappe, Daily Globe, Box 639, Worthington 56187

Hungering for the past

In 1968, one could buy two broiled burgers, a large order of fries and a malt for 79 cents at Karley’s Drive-In on the south side of Lake Okabena.

That’s one of the tidbits of information I learned this week from the “Growing Up in Worthington: What Do You Remember?” Facebook page. I previously wrote about the “Growing Up” phenomenon about a month and a half ago in a Faces & Places page feature for the Daily Globe. The site continues to be a source of nostalgia and amusement for me and many other people with ties to our community. When I checked today, there were now 5,211 members.

The Karley’s notation came from an item posted by site administrator Dave Ford. He came across a bag of old Daily Globe newspapers and has been gradually scanning in and posting items of interest —including ads from many businesses, some defunct and a few still functioning.

To my personal delight, he included a big advertising spread from a business spotlight section for my family’s business, Rickers Photos. We no longer own it, although it continues to bear the family name. The advertisement included the business’ history, having been founded in 1872 by E.F. Buchan and bought by my grandparents in 1934. If my math is correct, that means a photography studio has been in business in Worthington for 142 years, 80 of those bearing my family’s name. That’s pretty darn cool.

The ad also included photos of my late father, Don Rickers; uncle, Russell Rickers; and grandparents, Alice and Harry Rickers. The photo of Harry is one of my favorites —a studio shot with a cigar in his mouth. It gave me a good chuckle.

As I’ve mentioned before, the “Growing Up” site has also involved some recipe sharing, particularly for favorite dishes at Worthington’s dining establishments. None from Karley’s Drive-In yet, but the A&W’s barbecue/coney recipe has been shared, along with the goulash recipe from Ray’s Café.

The A&W favorite is from the files of Amy Merrill Moritz.

A&W Barbecues & Coneys

2 pounds ground beef (original recipe says to buy cheap beef, the greasier, the better)

2 ½ tablespoons dehydrated chopped onion

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon Open Pit barbecue sauce

½ tablespoons salt

½ tablespoon pepper

2/3 cup Heinz ketchup

Put all ingredients in a roaster and bake at 350 degrees until meat is brown.  This next part is important, turn oven down to 225 degrees and simmer for about an hour.  Stir often.

To make coneys, add chili powder, about  1 teaspoon per pound, after you turn the oven down.

The Ray’s Café recipe was shared by Jami Cummings:

“For those of you that knew my Grandma Severson as the ‘Goulash Queen’ at Ray’s Café … here is her famous recipe for ‘Elaine’s Goulash!’ (Knowing my Grandma, she probably left something out on purpose just so you will say ‘It’s NOT as good as Elaine’s.’”

Elaine’s Goulash

3 cups elbow macaroni

3 pounds lean ground beef

2 quarts plus 1 pint home-canned tomatoes

2 ½ cups finely chopped onions

2 ½ cup finely chopped celery

½ large green pepper, finely chopped

½ cup ketchup

Salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste

In a large electric fry pan or heavy skillet, brown ground beef, onions, green pepper, salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Keep chopping the mixture until the hamburger is well broken up. Put the celery in the microwave with water on it and cook until half done. Drain water off celery and add to beef mixture.

When browned add 1 quart of the tomatoes and the ketchup. Let simmer for a while. Meanwhile, cook macaroni according to the box instructions. Drain and add the other quart of tomatoes, stir gently and let stand a while and then add hamburger mixture. Mix well and add the pint of tomatoes.

Let goulash cool completely and put in the refrigerator overnight. This goulash will be very juicy, but the macaroni will absorb juice overnight. The next day, bake in a slow oven. Let goulash get “DARN GOOD & HOT.”

NOTE: This makes a large batch. If you want to make this and eat it the same day, use fewer tomatoes.

Spring in my step & recipes in the file

Oops! Forgot to post this blog after I wrote it — more than a week ago. But perhaps that was good, because there was an omission in one of the recipes. It is now fixed…

Do I dare say it? Or will such a comment draw Mother Nature’s interest and put a jinx on the nicer weather we’ve been having?
I’m going to be bold and chance it:
Spring has finally sprung!
The birds are singing, the grass is taking on greenish tinge, and there are smiles on the faces of people on the street. I’ve noticed that my own spirits have been brighter, and there’s definitely “spring” in my step.
That swing in my temperament can also be attributed to a recent influx of new recipes ­— making the writing of this blog a much easier task. First up is a bar recipe sent in by Sandy Dixon of Worthington.
“I brought these bars to the Lenten services at St. Matthews, and several requested the recipe and said to put it in the Globe so they could all have the recipe,” writes Sandy.

Peanut Butter Fingers

Cream together 1 cup butter, 1 cup white sugar and 1 cup brown sugar. Add 2 eggs and 2/3 cup peanut butter. Beat until smooth.
Add 1 teaspoon soda, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 cups flour and 2 cups oatmeal. Mix until evenly blended.
Grease a 9- by 13-inch pan and press mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle 12 ounces chocolate chips over top. Allow chips to melt, then spread evenly.
For topping, combine ½ cup powdered sugar, ¼ cup peanut butter and 2 to 4 tablespoons milk, beating until smooth and of spreading consistency. Spread over top of chocolate. Cool, cut and serve.

When Maxine Gaul of Iona dropped me an email regarding the upcoming dinner on Sunday at St. Columba Church in Iona, she graciously included a couple of recipes.
“The following recipe was floating around the Internet recently, and I couldn’t resist the chocolate factor,” she explained. “It is very fudgy and delicious. I plan to make one for the St. Columba Spring Dinner. There are always such great pies and desserts at the dinner.”

Cocoa Cream Pie

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine ½ cup cocoa, ¼ cup cornstarch, 3 beaten egg yolks, 1½ cups sugar and ¼ teaspoon salt. While stirring over medium-high heat, gradually add 2 cups milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cool until thick, beating it smooth. (Cream pies take some time to thicken, so stir and stir for 10 to 15 minutes. Just keep it up until it thickens, advises Maxine.)
Once thickened, pour mixture into a pre-baked pie shell. Put in the refrigerator to chill. Add whipped topping if desired or use the leftover egg whites to make a meringue.

Maxine also included one of her favorite cookie recipes.
“I have tried many recipes for peanut butter cookies over the years, but this recipe is the best,” she endorsed.
Best Peanut Butter Cookies
Combine ½ cup softened butter, ½ cup packed brown sugar, ¼ cup white sugar. ½ teaspoon vanilla and 1 large egg, beating until light and fluffy. Add 1 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky), ¼ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon soda; mix well. Add 1¼ cups flour and slowly beat until all combined.
Form dough into balls and roll in sugar. Place on baking sheet and use a fork to press hash marks into the top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12-18 minutes.

Let the pranking commence

Consider yourself duly warned.

If you fall victim to any pranks, jokes or other tomfoolery on Tuesday, you have only yourself to blame, as I have given you ample notice that April Fools’ Day is coming up.

As I have mentioned before, my late mother, Dorthy, was a master of April Fool pranking. Somehow she always managed to come up with a premise that was just plausible enough that she could hook her kids with an April 1 tale. She was also known to run an uncooked egg under hot water to pass for a hardboiled egg for April 1 breakfast (although she never served hardboiled eggs for breakfast any other time of year); and substitute salt for sugar or vice versa. But her true talent came in those April 1 fibs. I’m sure she spent days mulling over possible scenarios, coming up with just the right amount of embellishment to pull one over on us.

I did not inherit that talent, nor did either of my siblings, although I believe that sister Margaret might be the best candidate for filling DotMom’s pranking shoes. She has yet to try to pull one over on me on April 1, but I think she has a good enough imagination to do it. (Do not consider this a challenge, Margaret.) When I have tried to pull off such a prank, I always give it away with a laugh or a smirk.

I’m more apt to attempt the egg trick on Hubby Bryan, or maybe some other food-related fun? In researching April Fool foods online, I found the majority of the suggestions were for food imposters — something sweet that looks like something savory and vice versa. Here are two such recipes that would be fun to concoct with kids on April Fools’ Day.

Pizza Cake

Prepare 1 package yellow cake mix according to package directions. Pour the batter into 2 greased and floured 9-inch round baking pans. Bake at 350 degrees 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely.

Place each cake on a plate or serving platter. Combine 1 cup white frosting with red liquid or paste food coloring until mixture resembles tomato sauce. Spread over the top of each cake to within ½ inch of edges.

Grate 3 ounces white baking chocolate; sprinkle over top of frosting to resemble cheese.

Unroll 2 strawberry fruit roll-ups (or other red fruit leather product). Use a 1½-inch round cutter to cut circles to resemble pepperoni. Arrange circles on top of cake. You can also add candied red and green fruits to resemble red and green peppers.

Meat Loaf Cupcakes

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 18 regular-sized or 9 jumbo muffin cups with cooking spray.

In large bowl, thorougly combine 2 pounds ground beef, 2 eggs, beaten, 1 small onion, finely diced, 1 clove garlic, finely minced; 2/3 cup ketchup, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Divide mixture evenly among muffin cups, pressing firmly.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool slightly in cups.

While the meat muffins are baking, cook 6 large potatoes, peeled and cubed, in salted water until tender. Drain; return to saucepan. Add 8 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks; 3 tablespoons butter and a little bit of milk. Mash until creamy and smooth, adding more milk if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place potato mixture into decorating bag; pipe potato onto top of each “cupcake.”

 

Recipe reminiscences

Lately I — along with more than 4,000 other people with ties to Worthington — have become engrossed in a Facebook social networking site, “Growing Up in Worthington, Minnesota, What Do You Remember?”
The site quickly gathered a large following of both current and former Worthington residents, who largely use it as an opportunity to reminisce about their hometown.
I’ve been busy writing a story about the Facebook site for the Daily Globe’s big annual report section, slated to come out on March 22 with a theme of “A Sense of Community.” I would urge you to check out the March 22 paper if you’re interested in the Worthington community or its history.
As a local native, I have easily gotten sidetracked by remembrances of people and places that I remember from my youth: The State Theater, Fred’s Café, Michael’s Steakhouse, Taco Towne, the old junior high building that was connected to Memorial Auditorium, the former courthouse building, Log Cabin Grocery, the popcorn wagon …
And among those reflections of the past have come up many recollections of foods, particularly items served in the school cafeterias. A few such recipes have come across my desk — or I inherited them from DotMom —so I have also shared them on the site. When someone gave me a big bag of Daily Globe clippings recently, I also found an article I had written in 2000 that con-tained a couple other beloved District 518 dishes.
So for those who have a hankering for the dishes of their school days, here are a few of those cafeteria recipes. The chili recipe is also in the “Mixing & Musing Cookbook.” The pizza burger recipe, which has been printed here before, was provided by Amy Moritz, who suggested using shredded cheese instead of running it through the meat grinder.

District 518 Chili

1 pound ground beef
½ cup water
One 15-ounce can Hormel chili without beans
One 16-ounce can tomato sauce
One 15½-ounce can Finest red beans (not kidney beans) and sauce
6 ounce can tomato paste
16-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 teaspoon chili powder
Place beef in large pan with the ½ cup water. Cook over very low heat; do not allow to brown, just steam.
Add remaining ingredients. Before adding the whole tomatoes, place them in a blender or force through a sieve to mash large pulp pieces. Simmer about 1 hour, adding water if it seems too thick. Note this recipe contains no onions.

School Pizza Burgers
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Brown 1 pound ground beef; drain. Grind ½ pound bologna in a meat grinder.
Combine meats with ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon sage, 1 teaspoon oregano, one 14-ounce can pizza sauce and ½ pound diced or shredded Velveeta; mix well. Split hamburger buns and spread mixture on each bun half.
Bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes.

Lunchroom Chocolate Cake

1½ cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ tablespoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon vinegar
1½ cups water
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon oil
½ tablespoon vanilla ex-tract
Mix together sugar and cocoa powder.
Separately mix flour, baking soda and salt. Combine all dry ingredients.
With mixer on low speed, add to the dry ingredients the vinegar, water, oil and vanilla, scraping bowl often. Do not overmix.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 325 degrees. Do not overbake.
Makes 20 portions.