Mary’s Memo – June 17th


Recently, a friend took me to Chelsea, MI, for an early dinner. Chelsea’s population is about 5,000. As I understand it, the community went through a transformation about 15 years ago including the downtown area where the chef-owned and operated Common Grill and a nearby community theater are located. Not too far off the main drag is the home of Jiffy Mixes whose silos were recently repainted white so even the factory is unobtrusive to the naked eye. Ditto for the neighborhoods where I didn’t notice an “eye sore.” Chelsea, MI is living proof of what happens when people work together for a common good.

If you choose to eat at 5pm you’re likely to be seated. If you go later, they’re may be up to a 1-1/2 hour wait. Do check out the specials because I was very pleased with one of that night’s specials: Lake Superior White Fish for $29.00. With it came hot bread, choice of salad and two other side dishes. Everyone doesn’t share my love of cold soups but I love gazpacho and the Common Grill’s recipe has to be the best one I have ever tasted! It’s featured in Craig Common’s second cookbook but it’s also available on the internet. Not only did my friend treat me to dinner but she also gave me Craig Common’s first cookbook, The Common Grill, published in 2000 by Huron River Press for $35.00. I’m sure this one and Return to the Common Grill, published in 2005, are available through There’s no postage due on orders over $25.00.

To reach the Common Grill, drive north on 127 to Jackson, MI and take 94 East to Chelsea. The Common Grill is closed on Monday but open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner and brunch on Sunday.

As we were leaving, I overheard a couple at the door remarking about the crowd waiting to be seated and the man said, “I’ve never been here when it wasn’t!”


• 2 (28-oz) cans whole tomatoes, peeled and seeded
• 1 pound seedless cucumbers, cored, chopped fine
• 2 green peppers – cored, chopped fine
• 1 pound onion, finely chopped
• 1 ounce finely chopped garlic marinated olive oil
• 1 ounce pimiento – finely chopped
• Pinch salt and pepper
• 14 ounces Wishbone Italian Dressing
• 12 ounces tomato juice

Blend marinated garlic lightly in a food processor. Add all of the ingredients in a large container and mix well. To serve, place 6-ounce serving into a glass. Garnish with a cucumber stick, peeled and quartered, a sprig of watercress and top with sour cream and croutons. Source: Return to the Common Grill


There are several ways to cut salt, sugar and fat and not miss it at all. Replace salted butter with unsalted. The buttery taste is still there minus salt. Instead of regular fresh orange juice from Florida (not made from concentrate) replace it with Tropicana’s no pulp, 50 percent less sugar, calcium and vitamin D added juice. I’ve used it long enough for the reduced sugar one to taste normal. Try all natural, preservative-free, cooked-in-canola oil Cape Cod Kettle Cooked Potato Chips with 40 percent less fat. Lay’s Sour Cream and Onion are still my favorite but I’ll also buy Cape Cod brand occasionally.

Finally, young and older shoppers buy soda pop by the carton, especially when it’s on sale. They’re also buying a lot of sugar that they’d be better off without. Tap water with ice is still the best thirst-quencher on a hot summer day.


Knowing that the only soft drink I buy is root beer, daughter-in-law Kelly called my attention to Taste of Home’s Root Beer Cookies. Recipe said they taste better the second day and that’s true. My brother-in-law, Sam, gave these a thumbs up.


• 1 cup unsalted butter
• 2 cups packed brown sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 3/4 teaspoon McCormick Root Beer Concentrate
• 4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1-1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted

• 3-1/2 cups powdered sugar
• 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
• 3 tablespoons water
• 1-1/4 teaspoons McCormick Root Beer Concentrate

In large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in buttermilk and root beer concentrate. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in pecans. Drop by tablespoon 3 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake in preheated 375ºF oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Let stand on cookie sheet a short time before removing to wire rack to cool. In a small bowl, combine frosting ingredients; beat until smooth. Frost cooled cookies. Recipe makes about 6 dozen. Source: Adapted from Taste of Home recipe.

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