Mary’s Memo – December 5th

If there is a busier time of the year, I’m not aware of what it would be. At my age, I’m not into buying, gift-wrapping and sending gifts to relatives and friends. Gift cards are my choice for most everyone. Consider a Chief gift card in whatever amount you choose, or select from cards to other major chains, also at Chief. My grandchildren love the concept because they can use it as they like.

If you are parents of young children, our rule was to buy them something to wear, something educational and something for fun.

To steer your children toward science, technology, engineering and math, order the Purdue Engineering Gift Guide. The toys, games and books included in the guide are vetted by researchers and tested extensively by children throughout the community. View the complete list at Gift Guide.


Americans eat about 3 pounds of mushrooms a year, on average, a number that has been rising gradually. While many people use them sparingly, almost as a garnish, mushrooms are increasingly taking center stage in dishes. Mushrooms are fungi, neither plant nor animal, but they are commonly regarded as vegetables and count toward the USDA-recommended two to three cups of vegetables a day. Most popular in North America and Europe are white button mushrooms along with cremini, which when fully mature are called portabella. Specialty mushrooms including oyster, morel and shitake, for example are increasingly available and affordable, thanks to year-round cultivation. Many varieties are available dry.

Because of their dull color, mushrooms are often overlooked as a source of nutrients. Though their nutritional profile depends on the variety as well as where and how they are grown, mushrooms supply some B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, selenium, copper, and zinc. They also contain polyphenols and other bioactive compounds along with fiber and only 20 calories per cup. What’s more, cooking boosts the earthy and aromatic flavors of mushrooms.

Mushrooms have been used medicinally for centuries, particularly in Asia. Some have shown immune-boosting and anti-cancer effects in lab studies. Like many plant foods, mushrooms also contain compounds that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, blood-sugar-lowering and immune stimulating properties. Some of these effects may result from interaction of mushroom compounds with microbes in the intestines.
On the other hand, some wild mushrooms are poisonous and can cause liver failure and death. Poisonous mushrooms can look very similar to edible varieties. Unless you are an expert, don’t eat mushrooms you find in the wild.

While some mushrooms are still cultivated in caves and cellars, today most are grown in specially designed buildings in which all aspects of the environment can be controlled. As a result, cultivated versions of wild mushrooms, which were once considered a delicacy, are now affordable and widely available.

Leave pre-packaged mushrooms in their unopened package. Don’t prep mushrooms until immediately before use. Trim off any woody parts of the stem end, then clean either by wiping gently with a damp cloth, paper towel or soft brush or by rinsing quickly in water. Immediately after washing, gently dry with a paper or lightweight cloth towel. Don’t let mushrooms soak, since they are very absorbent.
We really like a fresh mushroom salad of Giada De Laurentiis of the Food Network. It keeps well in the refrigerator.


• 1 pound large button mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and thinly sliced (I do this in my egg slicer)
• 1/3 cup flat leaf Italian parsley
• ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
• ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
• Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
• 2-ounce piece of Parmesan cheese

In a medium bowl mix together the mushrooms and parsley. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the oil mixture to the salad bowl and toss until all the ingredients are coated. Using vegetable peeler, shave the Parmesan on top and serve.

Recipe makes 4 servings.

Source: Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis recipe.


Our Christmas cookies this year include one we hadn’t made for years, Oatmeal Caramelitas from my sister, Ann Trentadue.

• 50 unwrapped Kraft caramels
• ½ cup evaporated milk
• 1¾ cups unsifted, all-purpose flour
• 2 cups quick oats
• 1½ cups packed light brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup melted butter
• 1 cup chocolate chips
• 1 cup chopped pecans

Melt caramels with evaporated milk over low heat. Mix dry ingredients with melted butter. Press half of crumbs in a 9x13 inch baking pan sprayed with Pam. Bake in preheated 350ºF oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts. Carefully spread caramel mixture. Top with reserved crumbs and return to oven and bake 15 minutes longer. Chill for 1 to 2 hours, then cut into small squares.

Recipe makes 4 dozen.

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