Monthly Archives: August 2009

Mary’s Memo #2125


I never dreamed that I would make this plea as the mother of a son who died of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) in 2001, but here I am since 1999 speaking from experience about this horrendous disease. MDA was there for Chris from the time he was diagnosed until he died exactly two years later. Jerry's Kids include adults who have one of several kinds of MD including ALS. When MDA says they provided patient services, believe it! Chris was so grateful for their activism on his behalf that he donated his motorized wheel chair to MDA of Central Illinois after he died.


Picnics and cookouts are surely being planned and we have just the recipes to make the party perfect. The next two come from the internet including the Campbell's site and also

Mention Campbell's and you think of canned soup but Pepperidge Farm is also a Campbell's-owned company. Before frozen puff pastry was available I did make my own but it's labor-intensive and I have no guilt complex about using Pepperidge Farm when I need sheets of puff pastry or individual patty shells. And it should come as no surprise that I was intrigued by Campbell's individual pizzas made with puff pastry shells. Since there was only one of me to eat them when I tried the recipe, I had baked mini pizzas for several days, storing the filling in the refrigerator and using as needed. The last one was as good as the first. Like regular pizza, don't make these in the microwave but do in the oven to keep the crust crispy. Let your creative juices flow and make variations of these mini-pizzas. Instead of Italian sauce replace it with barbecue sauce. Add chopped rotisserie chicken, chopped bell pepper and crushed pineapple. The possibilities are endless!


1 10-ounce package Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Shells
1 tablespoon light olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped broccoli florets (can also use chopped asparagus)
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 medium green or red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup Prego Traditional Italian Sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella or Swiss cheese

Thaw pastry shells at room temperature for 40 minutes or until they're easy to handle. Heat oven to 400F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. On lightly floured pastry cloth, roll shells into 7-inch circles. Arrange 3 circles on each cookie sheet. Using a fork pierce each one thoroughly. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Leave the pastry circles on the baking sheets and place on wire racks to cool. Heat oil in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add broccoli, mushrooms, pepper and onion and cook until vegetables are crisp-cooked. Spread Italian sauce over the pasty circles to within 1/2 inch of the edge. Divide vegetable mixture among the pastry circles and top with cheese. Bake for 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Recipe makes 6 individual pizzas. Adapted from recipe. Who doesn't have zucchini this time of year! Either you grew it or someone gave you some. Reduce your inventory by making Zucchini Whoopie Pies. When I tested the recipe I didn't divide the filling evenly before putting the tops on and ended up with extra filling. So that doesn't happen to you, be sure to use 2 rounded tablespoons of filling before topping with another cookie.


2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup well shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large
1 cup walnuts, chopped

1 8-ounce package regular cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Squeeze handfuls of zucchini wrapped in a clean kitchen towel to remove moisture. Whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt until combined. Whisk together buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl. Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg and beat until well combined. At low speed, mix in flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until smooth. Mix in zucchini and walnuts until just incorporated. Spoon 1/4 cup (I used the larger Pampered Chef scooper) mounds 2-inches apart on baking sheets (12 cookies per sheet). Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through, until tops are puffed and golden and spring back when touched, about 18 to 22 minutes (mine were done in about 19 minutes). Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Meanwhile prepare filling by creaming together cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla and salt at medium-high speed until smooth. Spread rounded 2 tablespoons of filling on flat side of half the cakes and top with remaining cakes, flat sides together. Store whoopie pies in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving. Recipe makes 12.

Source: Adapted from recipe. Download PDF of Memo #2125

Mary’s Memo #2124


About the time I was married in 1951, some electric stoves included a deep well cooker. Mother had a stove with this feature and my first range did as well. Although I have no way of knowing for sure, it could have been the inspiration for slow cookers that came later. Although Rival made the first slow cooker, mine was made by West Bend. I preferred this brand at the time because the cooker and base were separate while the first Rival crockpot was in one piece. But it didn't take Rival too long to introduce a crock insert that could be washed separately. Like many small appliances, crockpots were popular for several years until something else came along to grab consumers' attention such as crepe makers and fondue pots. I had one of each but eventually gave the crepe maker to our local thrift shop (it's easier to make crepes in a small skillet) but I still use the fondue pot occasionally. Then, like fashions repeat themselves, the crockpot emerged bigger and better with variable heat options and more sophisticated recipes to make.

Today's slow cookers fit our busy lifestyle. The 6-quart crockpots are great for families but I also use this size, dividing the finished dish into single portions to freeze. Slow Cooker Chicken Stroganoff from is an example. I did replace chicken breast halves with boneless, skinless thighs, butter for margarine, reduced fat cream cheese and Healthy Request cream of chicken soup for regular kind.


8 boneless, uncooked skinless thighs, cubed
2 tablespoons butter
1 (.7 ounce) package dry Italian-style dressing mix
1 (8 ounce) package reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1 10.75-ounce can Healthy Request cream of chicken soup
Angel hair pasta, cooked according to package directions

Put chicken, butter and dressing mix in slow cooker; mix together and cook on LOW for 5 to 6 hours. Blend cream cheese and soup together. Add to chicken mixture and cook on HIGH for another 1/2 hour or until heated through. Serve on angel hair pasta. Recipe makes 4 servings.

Source: Adapted from recipe provided by, the world's favorite recipe web site.

You can also make meat loaves in the slow cooker like Glazed Pork Loaf from


1 1/2 pounds lean ground pork
1/4 cup ketchup
3/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

In large bowl blend together all ingredients well. Form into loaf. Fold two 24-inch-long pieces of aluminum foil in half lengthwise, then in half lengthwise again. Place strips across each other, forming a cross in the bottom of 3 1/2 quart slow cooker. Press strips against the inside of slow cooker, letting ends hang over the outside. Place pork loaf in cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or on LOW 8 to 10 hours, until a thermometer inserted in center reads 160 degrees. Carefully remove pork loaf from cooker using foil strips to lift out of cooker; cool 10 minutes before slicing to serve. Recipe makes 8 servings.



Diets are often doomed to fail because they focus more of what you can't eat than what you can. That's what is so appealing about the Mediterranean diet, which really isn't a diet at all but a style of eating that focuses on an abundance of nutritious foods including lots of fresh vegetables and fruits and you needn't go farther than your local supermarket to get the makings for Mediterranean meals. Think about a plate where a good half of it is taken up with vegetables. Another one quarter is healthy grains such as whole grain pasta, rice, couscous and quinoa and the remaining quarter is lean protein. The Mediterranean lifestyle is also built around daily activity. Go for a walk after dinner and choose leisure activities that keep you moving.

Source: Consumer Reports on Health, August 2009.


Rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, salmon swam into first place in a new survey of New York nutritionists who were asked to name foods they'd recommend as not only nutritious but offering distinct health benefits and good value. The poll members in the New York State Dietetics Association ranked oats number two because of high fiber and coming in third were blueberries, rich in antioxidants and vitamin C. Rounding out the top five foods were two dairy products: low-fat milk for its calcium and vitamin D content and low fat yogurt with added probiotics, which aid digestion. The group advised, "Look for yogurt brands that say, 'live and active cultures' on the label."


Daughter Mary Ann slathers a pesto mayonnaise topping on broiled salmon shortly before its ready to eat. She adapted the topping from a Better Homes and Gardens recipe in their red plaid cookbook. Broil 4 half-inch thick salmon fillets 4 to 6 minutes or until fish flakes, tucking under any thin edges. Meantime, mix together 1/4 cup mayonnaise (we use Hellmann's Light) and 3 tablespoons commercial or homemade pesto. Slather pesto mayonnaise on fillets shortly before done. Top with a mixture of 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs and 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese. Continue broiling 1 to 2 minutes more or until crumbs are lightly brown. To make 1 serving, "eyeball" ingredients accordingly.

Source: Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens recipe via Mary Ann Thaman. Download PDF of Memo #2124

Mary’s Memo #2123


This may surprise you, but I've never had a doggie bag of food that I liked reheated. In my opinion, the best meal at The Olive Garden is breadsticks, salad and soup, especially the breadsticks. I liked them so much that I bought some one time to take home. But reheated, they were not as good as when I ate them in the restaurant. I'm convinced that their appeal at the restaurant is because they're fresh from the oven. That said I do see a lot of people leaving restaurants with doggie bags so the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Citizens Information Center have a free Eating Out Safely package of publications, whether you're picking up sandwiches at the corner deli, sitting down for a fancy meal or reheating leftovers in the microwave. Eating Out Safely also offers a guide that answers questions about how long doggie bags can be kept and how to safely reheat meals. It suggests storing cold foods at 40o F or lower and warming hot foods to 145o F before eating them. The package also offers tips for ordering food in restaurants, such as avoiding uncooked selections and making sure meats are cooked thoroughly.

To help keep foodbourne illnesses off your table, call toll-free 1-888-878-3256, weekdays 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time and ask for free the Eating Out Safely package.


I answer many food questions but when it comes to a dietetic one I ask a registered dietician for the answer. Last week a friend who was told not to eat any foods with seeds asked me if that would include blueberries. Blueberries do have miniscule seeds in the center and although I didn't think they would be a problem, I told her to talk to her doctor or the dietician at the hospital. Since blueberries are one of the most highly toted foods today I also wanted to know if blueberries should be avoided by people on a seedless regimen. Dinah Dalder, MS RD, and Dietetics Program Assistant in the College of Consumer and Family Science at Purdue University had this to say on the subject: "Blueberries should be okay if the concern is avoidance of seeds due to a history of diverticulitis, and the individual is currently not having an acute attack of diverticulitis. If the person is worried about eating blueberries, eat in small quantities and monitor what happens." Dalder said more information about seeded foods and diverticulosis is available from the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House at


I am already setting aside recipes for the annual holiday sheet and Hot Tomato Grits from Southern Living magazine would be a perfect choice. However, it's even better tasting made with homegrown tomatoes so this is one recipe we're not reserving! I did cut the amount of salt in half, used reduced fat sharp Cheddar cheese, my Cheddar-of-choice in recipes, and "kicked it up a notch" with a drop or two of Tabasco. And it's true, I had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner but not on the same day!


2 slices lean bacon, chopped
2 14 1/2 ounce cans Swanson chicken broth without MSG
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
2 large tomatoes, peeled, chopped and drained on paper towels
2 tablespoons canned chopped green chiles (freeze rest for another time)
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco
1 cup shredded reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese
Chopped parsley and additional shredded Cheddar for garnish

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat 8 to 10 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon, reserving drippings in pan. Drain bacon on paper towels. Gradually add chicken broth and salt to hot drippings in pan; bring to a boil. Stir in grits, tomatoes, green chiles and Tabasco; return to boil, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in Cheddar cheese until melted. Spoon into serving dish and top with reserved bacon, chopped parsley and additional Cheddar cheese (about 2 tablespoons). Serve immediately. Recipe makes 6 servings.

Source: Adapted from recipe in Southern Living, December 2008.


Recently a friend requested a recipe for Lemonade Cheesecake from an old memo. It's made with white cake mix and frozen lemonade concentrate and anything lemon-flavored tastes good to me in the summertime.


1 2-layer white cake mix
1 cup dairy sour cream
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
6 ounces frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
3 eggs

1 cup dairy sour cream
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9x13-inch glass baking dish. In large bowl combine cake mix, first cup of sour cream, lemonade concentrate, cream cheese and eggs. Blend on low speed until moistened; beat at high speed 4 minutes. Spoon into prepared baking dish. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely. In small bowl combine remaining cup of sour cream with sugar; spread evenly over cake. Refrigerate. Cut into 15 to 18 squares. Refrigerate leftovers. Download PDF of Memo #2123

Mary’s Memo #2122


Most people would agree that homegrown sweet corn and tomatoes are the Academy Award winners of August. I served Tomato-Corn Salad at the Bryan Chief earlier this year when neither were available locally but it still got a thumbs up from tasters. It's even more spectacular when tomatoes and corn come from our own backyard or nearby.


3 ears of homegrown sweet corn, uncooked (Chief and Rays have Lima area grown)
1 pound tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Over a large bowl, cut kernels off corn cobs and stir in tomatoes and onion. Toss with vinegar and basil; season with salt and pepper. Recipe makes 4 to 6 servings.

The next fresh vegetable entree will take a little more time but daughter Mary Ann says it's one of her favorite meatless meals. Once again, fresh basil adds an especially good taste!


8-ounces bow tie (farfalle) pasta
2 medium yellow squash, halved lengthwise and sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped seeded tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Cook pasta in boiling water for 8 minutes. Add squash and zucchini; return to a boil and cook 3 minutes. Add corn; cook an additional 2 minutes. Drain well. Combine basil and next 5 ingredients (basil through pepper) in a large bowl. Add pasta mixture and tomato; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with walnuts; garnish with a basil sprig, if desired. Serve immediately. Recipe makes 4 servings.

Source: Cooking Light, June, 1997, via Mary Ann Thaman.


I am no wine expert but Wine Cocktails by A.J. Rathbun deserves attention from wine aficionados. Wine Cocktails contains 50 recipes that showcase wine's wide range of flavors by mixing it with fruit juice, herbs, spices, spirits and liqueurs. They're perfect for cooling down summer, providing a lower alcohol drink for parties or weddings, for pairing with food or serving as after-dinner cordials. Rathbun has contributed to national publications such as the Food Network Magazine, Every Day with Rachel Ray and Wine Enthusiast. He's also author of Party Snacks!, Party Drinks!, Luscious Liqueurs and IACP Award-winning Good Spirits and a member of both the Culinary Professionals and the Museum of the Modern Cocktail.


Ice (in block form if possible, or use cracked ice)
1 750-milliliter bottle medium dry red wine
8 ounces fresh pineapple juice
4 ounces fresh lime juice
4 ounces fresh orange juice
2 liters chilled ginger ale
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 orange, cut into slices

Put the block of ice in a punch bowl. If using cracked ice, fill the bowl just about half way. Add the red wine and fruit juices. Using a spoon, stir briefly. Add the ginger ale and stir again. Drop in the lime wedges and orange slices and stir once more. Serve in punch cups or goblets, making sure a little fruit finds its way into each cup. Recipe serves 8.

Source: Wine Cocktails by A.J. Rathbun; The Harvard Common Press, April, 2009; $12.95/hardcover.

Another beverage book published by The Harvard Common Press this year is Cool Waters by Brian Preston-Campbell. With Cool Waters, it's so easy and economical to create one-of-kind flavored waters free of caffeine, added sugar, excess calories and artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors. According to Karen Mitchell and Andrew Dornenburg, co-authors of The Flavor Bible and What To Drink with What You Eat, "This small book is big on healthful ideas for adding flavor and pizzazz to your glass."

It should be noted that the still water needed for recipes in this cookbook simply means water from your faucet without bubbles. Your tap water is the least expensive, most environmentally responsible choice and often the best source.

I have an abundant supply of seedless cucumbers in my mini salad garden and Cucumber Cubes is a refreshing way to chill a Bloody Mary or glass of V-8 juice. Cheers!


1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
Pinch of sea salt
2 cups chilled still water

Puree all of the ingredients in a blender until very smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour the puree in standard ice cube trays and freeze.

Source: Cool Waters by Brian Preston-Campbell; The Harvard Common Press, January, 2009; $12.95/hardcover. Purchase either or both books at Download PDF of Memo #2122

Mary’s Memo #2121


I do urge people to read labels but when it came to my favorite potato chip I didn't realize until recently that they're cooked in hydrogenated soybean oil, a solid fat and anything cooked in a solid fat has trans fatty acids that raise bad cholesterol (LDL) and decrease good cholesterol (HDL). I still think my chip-of-choice tastes better but I try to avoid any food with trans fats. Also, in my older days I'm trying to stay as well as I can for as long as I can and I don't need something that raises my cholesterol! So do read labels carefully.


A flexitarion is semi-vegetarian who only eats carnivorous cuisine from time to time, according to an article by Louise McCready from McCready reports that meat is the single most expensive thing Americans eat, and in tough times it's one of the first things to go. Fifty one percent of shoppers surveyed by the American Meat Institute say they have changed their meat purchasing relative to the economy. Despite the recent increase in home cooking, the average family prepares 3.9 meals that include a meat item, down from 4.2 meals last year.

Although I don't consider myself a flexitarian, I am making myself more meatless meals. I admit to liking a hot dog occasionally but don't want to deal with a pound of them. Every Thursday our A&W features a Coney dog for 99 cents. So when I crave a hot dog, I buy it that day. By doing so, it limits my consumption of processed meats a tad.

I do want people to make healthier food choices but prefer that they make the decision themselves. I like to think of Mary's Memo as a bully pulpit where I can encourage good eating habits without spending an arm and a leg. Take advantage of the special sales on produce at Chief and Rays in addition to the weekly specials. Then plan your menus around the sale items. Because I want you to have the latest information about foods and nutrition, I personally subscribe to 5 monthly newsletters on the subject. Sometimes you get the information in the memo before it's reported in newspapers and on TV.

Tomato and Sweet Onion Salad is a suggestion because grape tomatoes (miniature romas) are often featured. The original recipe called for 4 large tomatoes, sliced. Instead, I used 3 pints of grape tomatoes, halved. I also doubled the dressing because even doubled, it wasn't an excessive amount. When I served the salad at the Bryan Chief I used regular balsamic vinegar and I didn't like the way it colored the onions and prompted a customer to ask "what's the brown stuff?" Chief and Rays also carry white balsamic vinegar that comes from the same part of Italy as regular balsamic but it's processed differently. It's only aged one year so it has a milder flavor and light color which I prefer in this salad.


1/2 cup light olive oil
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 pints cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
1 medium sweet onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup chopped basil

Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, salt, sugar and pepper in a glass or stainless steel bowl. Arrange tomatoes and onion slices in alternate rows in a 9x13-inch serving dish. Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil and drizzle evenly with dressing. Cover and let set at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Serve with a slotted spoon. Recipe makes 8 servings.

Source: Adapted from Southern Living recipe, July 2005.

There is no shortage of zucchini. Even if you don't grow it, I'll bet you have a friend who wants to give you some. So it seems appropriate to share a zucchini recipe. I added fresh mushrooms to this recipe simply because I like them! I'm also reading good things about the health benefits of mushrooms. They're an excellent source of potassium and a rich source of riboflavin, niacin and selenium, an antioxidant.


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced thin
2 medium zucchini, cut in half and sliced about 1/2-inch thick
2 cups button mushrooms, sliced in half
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
Ground black pepper

Heat oil in large 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Stir in onions and cook 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until lightly browned. Add zucchini and cook I minute. Stir in teriyaki sauce, soy sauce and sesame seeds. Cook until zucchini is crisp-cooked, about 5 minutes. Stir in ground pepper and serve immediately. Recipe makes 6 serving.

Source: Adapted from recipe provided by, the world's favorite recipe web site.

Note: To toast sesame seeds, cook in a skillet over medium heat until lightly browned, stirring almost constantly.

PS: Remember the Cucumber and Grape Salad from this spring? I have made it several times but now I'm using plain Greek yogurt. It's thicker and creamier than other plain yogurts. It does cost more but it's worth it. Download PDF of Memo #2121