Mary’s Memo – June 6th


Trading food is a practice as old as agriculture itself, and now this tradition has been reborn with a modern twist. Welcome to Food Swap, an event where home cooks, bakers, canners, gardeners and foragers get together to trade their homemade and homegrown food items - no money is allowed to change hands. From Emily Pastor, co-founder of the Chicago Food Swap, comes the book Food Swap; a perfect how-to guide for doing just that. With 80 artisanal recipes that are perfect for trading, readers will be fully prepared for their first swap. It’s filled with practical advice on topics like the ideal number of participants, the importance of following local regulations, getting the word out, finding a location and basic guidelines to ensure success. (Storey Publishing, May 2016, Paperback w/flaps, $19.95).

Compound Butter is butter that has been combined with flavorings such as herbs, spices and even sweeteners. These flavored butters are served in restaurants as an accompaniment to the bread basket. Beyond their use as a spread, compound butters are often used to flavor meats, seafood and steamed vegetables or added to sauces. To make, combine the unsalted butter and flavorings in the bowl of a standard mixer and mix on medium speed for several minutes until thoroughly combined. One combination is as follows:

Honey cinnamon
3 tablespoons honey
3 teaspoons cinnamon
Shallot and tarragon
¼ cup minced shallot
1 tablespoon minced tarragon
Bleu cheese and walnut
4 ounces softened bleu cheese
¼ cup finely chopped walnuts
¼ cup mixed herbs such as parsley, thyme and basil
Source: Food Swap: The Next Step in the DIY Kitchen Revolution by Emily Paster.


In a recent study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, 245 overweight or obese women (ages 22 to 72) were enrolled in a structured weight-loss program and assigned to one of three diets: lower fat/higher-carb; higher-fat/lower-carb; or walnut-rich higher fat/lower-carb; or walnut-rich higher-fat/lower-carb. The walnut group had the most favorable changes in blood cholesterol, including a small rise in HDL (good) cholesterol. Walnuts are the only nut supplying a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid, a potentially heart-healthy omega-3 fat.
Source: University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, June 2016.


Kale has become synonymous with health so it’s no surprise that the produce aisle is packed with salad blends that boasts their kale content. But they may not be the best option if your goal is to work more into your diet. Although they all contain plenty of healthful greens, Consumer Reports on Health said bags didn’t contain much kale. Instead, to get kale’s benefits buy a bunch or package of kale alone and make your own salad blend.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, June 2016.


Just so you know, Pace Picante Sauce is to use as a dip while Pace Salsa is a flavor booster for most recipes. Pace is also a favorite brand. Over the years, my taster tolerates medium strength.


My mini-salad garden includes asparagus and I have a bumper crop this year, picking it daily! One way it is used is in Asparagus Cheese Pie made with only four ingredients, asparagus, shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, light mayonnaise and fresh lemon juice. It also reheats nicely in the microwave on medium low heat.


3 cups asparagus but into small pieces
2 cups Our Family shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup Our Family light mayonnaise
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust
In mixing bowl combine asparagus, cheese, light mayonnaise and lemon juice. Mix thoroughly. Spread mixture evenly in prepared pie crust. Bake in preheated 350ºF oven for 45 minutes to 50 minutes (mine took 50 minutes). Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm. Recipe makes 6 servings.

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Mary’s Memo – May 30th


As you already know my slow cookers, are a favorite appliance. Not a week goes by that one of them isn’t used, either for myself or to test a recipe for Mary’s Memo. That said, I could not resist buying Fix-It and Forget-It Slow Cooker Recipes by Phyllis Good (Good Books, 2016, loose leaf bound/$24.99). Cookbook features 450 of her very best recipes from contributors. Contents include ways to cook meats, pasta, grains and vegetarian, soups, stews and chilies, vegetables and side dishes, breads, breakfasts and brunches, sweets and desserts, appetizers, snacks, spreads and beverages and every day from-scratch basics. In addition, Good shares hints for cooking with a slow cooker and information you won’t find in the manual. Phyllis Good is a New York Times bestselling author whose books have sold more than 12 million copies. Her commitment is to make it possible for everyone to cook who would like to, even if they have too little time or too little confidence. Good holds an MA in English from New York University, has authored many other cookbooks. Among them are Fix-It and Enjoy Healthy Cookbook (with nutritional expertise from Mayo Clinic). The Best of Amish Cooking and The Lancaster Central Market Cookbook. Leaping from the page was Fruit Medley, a recipe that can be made year round.


• 1 1/2 pounds mixed dry fruits
• 2 1/2 cups water
• 1cup sugar
• 1 tablespoon honey
• Peel of half lemon, cut into thin strips
• 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch
• 1/4 cup cold water
• 1/4 cup Cointreau
Grease interior of slow cooker crock. Pour in water. Stir in sugar, honey, lemon peel, nutmeg and cinnamon. Cover and cook on Low 2-3 hours. Turn cooker to High. In small bowl, mix cornstarch into water until smooth. Stir into fruit mixture. Cook on High 10 minutes, or until thickened. Recipe makes 6 to 8 servings. Source: Fix-It and Forget-It by Phyllis Good.


The Department of Nutrition Science at Purdue University celebrated 110 years of foods and nutrition being part of the curriculum on May 6. For this occasion 110 “Diamonds” were honored including yours truly (Class of 1949). Needless to say, I’m blessed to have lived long enough to attend every event culminating with a banquet at the Purdue Memorial Union. One of the afternoon highlights was Snacks with Jan Buckles, Purdue Nutrition Science Alumni Society ( Jan proves that snacks can be healthy as well as flavorful! Trust me, the salmon spread is awesome!!!!


• 8-ounces cream cheese
• Juice from 1 lemon
• 2/3-ounce baby dill, chopped
• 1 jalapeno, minced
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1/2 pound (about 1 cup) hot smoked salmon (salmon should be cold. Hot smoked refers to cooking process)
• 1/4 cup cooked bacon ends and pieces
In bowl of standard mixer, cream together cream cheese and lemon juice on high speed for several minutes until well combined and fluffy. Scrape sides, then add dill, jalapeno and garlic and blend until well mixed. Add in salmon chunks and bacon and mix just until combined. The more you mix, the less salmon chunks you’ll have. Serve with crackers or crostini for an appetizer or spread on a bagel for breakfast. Makes 2 to 3 cups.


• 2 ounces cream cheese
• 1 teaspoon milk
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
• 20 dried apricots
• 1 teaspoon mild tasting honey
Mix cream cheese, milk and basil together with a fork until well combined and spreadable. Spread 1/2 teaspoon cheese mixture on each apricot and top with an almond. Drizzle with honey before serving. Make one day ahead.


• 1 cup caramel bits
• 2 tablespoons heavy cream
• Handful of seedless green grapes
• 1 cup salted peanuts, crushed
• Toothpicks
In small pot over medium-low heat, combine the caramel bits and cream. Stir until melted. Reduce heat to lowest setting just to warm. Place the peanuts in a shallow dish and dip the grapes into caramel sauce and then roll in chopped nuts. Place on a plate to set. Repeat until all the grapes are used.


• 2 cups whole wheat flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• Salt
• 1/2 cup applesauce
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1/4 cup milk of choice
• 1 banana, mashed
• 1/4 cup honey
• 1 cup grated zucchini (about 1 large zucchini)
Preheat oven to 3500F. In large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. In a separate medium-size bowl, whisk together apple sauce, oil, milk, banana and honey. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Fold in zucchini. Pour mixture into lightly greased muffin cups and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tops have browned.

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Mary’s Memo – May 23rd


The pursuit of happiness is an unalienable right according to the Declaration of Independence. And researchers have long associated happiness with good health and wealth. Is this true? From the 1920s to the 1950s, an era of depression and world war, as household income rose, there was an increase in people’s self-reported happiness. But more current research shows that money increases happiness only to a certain point. A December 2015 study published in The Lancet, Britain researchers who tracked 700,000 women in the United Kingdom, concluded that the reverse is true. Their surveys found that having better health in the first place makes people feel happier. Whether its happiness that influences health or the other way around it’s clear that good emotional states and good health go together. Studies by the Nobel laureate psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman, PhD, showed that money increases happiness until a person or family earns about $75,000 annually. After that, emotional well-being doesn’t increase with additional income.
Source: University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter, Spring 2016.


Is the salad you had for dinner one or two servings? It depends on how big it was. Does lettuce and tomato on your turkey sandwich count? Yes! However, keeping track of servings turned something that should be enjoyable into a chore. It’s much easier to remember that every time you eat, whether it’s a meal or a snack, at least one fruit or vegetable should be in the menu. According to Sandra Proctor, PhD, RD, an assistant professor in the department of food, nutrition and health, at Kansas State University, “The nutrients, protective effects and satiety that we get from fruits and vegetables are unparalleled.” Proctor added: “There are so many benefits, but people just don’t get enough.” Ideally, produce should take up half your plate. If you’re opting for fruit, choose fresh or unsweetened frozen, rather than canned fruit in syrup or juice. For vegetables, there’s renewed emphasis on choosing those that are dark green, orange or red. Those bright colors are the result of powerful disease-fighting phytochemicals. Legumes, such as kidney beans and lentils, count as both a vegetable and a source of protein.

How to work it in: Toss veggies into grain or pasta dishes (or substitute spaghetti squash for noodles), soups and omelets. Make smoothies with greens, berries and avocado or Greek yogurt for a little creaminess. Including fruit, such as lemons, mangoes, oranges or berries in savory dishes creates a brightness that balances some of the heavier flavors.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, May 2016.


Because I love potato cakes made with leftover mashed potatoes, I purposely cook more than enough so I can make them for another meal. They’re even more flavor-enhanced with the addition of cheese (whatever kind you have on hand) plus minced chives, scallions, cooked chopped bacon or bits of chopped cooked ham or a combination of any of these.


• 1/2 cup prepared mashed potatoes
• 2 tablespoons shredded cheese
• 2 tablespoons minced chives, scallions, cooked chopped bacon, bits of chopped boiled ham or regular ham or a combination of two of these.
• 1 1/2 teaspoons butter plus 1 1/2 teaspoons Our Family extra virgin olive oil
• Reduced-fat sour cream
Mix mashed potatoes with cheese plus one of the other “ad-in’s.” Heat butter and olive oil in 8-inch non-stick skillet. Dredge potato cakes in flour. When butter and olive oil are hot, prepared potato cakes on both sides until golden brown. Serve immediately with a dollop of sour cream if using. Recipe makes 2 potato cakes. Serve with a fried egg.


Although my spouse never liked cold soup because soup should be hot, he never understood why I would promote one served cold because of an earlier statement saying hot foods are served hot and cold foods cold. Microwave Vichyssoise was a hit at my microwave classes in the 50s for the Bryan Parks and Recreation Department. Although I’m known for replacing whipping cream with evaporated milk in many dishes, 1 cup whipping cream is a must for vichyssoise.


• 4 scallions (green onions), chopped
• 3 cups peeled, diced potatoes
• 3 cups boiling water
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 tablespoon MSG-free Better than Chicken Bouillon
• 1 cup whipping cream
• 1 cup milk (whatever kind you normally use)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper
• 1 tablespoon chopped chives

Combine scallions, potatoes and water in 2 1/2 quart glass casserole. Cover and cook on high 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in butter and Chicken Flavored Better than Bouillon. Process in a blender until smooth. Return mixture to casserole, stir in whipping cream, milk and seasonings. Cover and microwave on high an additional 3 minutes or until heated through. Chill thoroughly. Garnish with chopped chives. Recipe makes 8 servings.

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Mary’s Memo – May 16th


It’s up to you whether you dig purslane (PERS-lin) up or decided to eat the leaves stem and all! According to Sandra Mason, Horticulture Extension Educator, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, it can be seen growing in your garden in June but not as an invited guest. Purslane is native to India and Persia but has spread throughout the world as an edible plant. Purslane has fleshy succulent leaves and stems with a yellow flower that is also edible. They look like a baby jade plant. The stems lay flat on the ground as they radiate from a single taproot sometimes forming large mats of leaves. Check out U of I’s Midwestern Turf Grass Weed identification website for some great pictures of purslane. Purslane, often called pigweed, is an annual reproducing from seeds and stem pieces. Seeds from purslane have been known to stay viable for 40 years in the soil. If you are trying to control purslane the number one rule is don’t let it go to seed. It grows just about anywhere from fertile garden soil to the poorest of soils. Its succulent characteristic makes it very drought tolerant. Purslane aficionados prefer eating fresh young plants, especially young leaves and tender stem tips. The taste is similar to watercress and spinach. If overcooked it tends to get a little slimy. You can also purchase purslane seeds for cultivated forms for better flavor and easier harvesting. Not only is purslane a good source of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin and vitamins A, B6, but it also contains more of the essential fatty acid Omega 3 than most other plants. Wash thoroughly before serving raw in salads, cooked briefly and used as a green or added to soup. For recipes go to purslane.html.
Source: University of Illinois and Food Lover’s Companion, Fourth Edition.


Read labels. The regular product has fewer ingredients while lighter counterpart has many more added chemicals, at least that’s my observation.


Keeping your kitchen uncluttered and calm might help prevent you from munching empty calories. A recent Cornell University experiment, published in Environment and Behavior, compared snacking habits of 100 young women. Half were assigned to a clean kitchen where they completed a writing assignment without directions. The others were sent to a cluttered kitchen where they had to work while a researcher noisily attempted to clean up. Then all participants were presented cookies, crackers and baby carrots for what they thought was a taste test. Those in the clean, quiet kitchen consumed fewer calories than participants surrounded by clutter and noise, who ate more cookies. What was on the participants’ minds also mattered: Women asked to write about a time when they felt chaotic and out of control ate more cookies than those told to write about being organized and in control.


For soups, sandwich fillings and entrees, I would not be without a slow cooker whether it be a 4-quart one or bigger. A fan of, this slow cooker 3-ingredient Chicken and Salsa caught my attention. Recipe didn’t say what to do with the sliced onions when they’re cooked but I am thinking they’re to flavor the chicken since its baked breast-side down. In my opinion, onion slices are too fatty to eat. Also, recipe said to cook for about 5 hours. Having done that, chicken fell apart when I tried to lift it from the cooker. That said, my recommendation is to cook no more than 4½ hours or when temperature of thickest part of thigh reads 165o. Meat is super-moist. Use as an entrée, shredded in sandwiches or as a filling for tacos.


• 1 sweet onion, sliced and separated into rings
• 1 5-pound Sanderson or Miller whole chicken
• 1 20-ounce jar medium salsa

For easier clean-up line cooker with an Our Family Slow Cooker Bag. Spread onion rings into the bottom of the cooker. Place chicken on top of onion layer breast-side down. Pour salsa over the chicken. Cook on high until no longer pink at the bone and juices run clear, about 4½ hours. An instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh near the bone should read 1650. Remove chicken from the slow cooker, cover with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil, and allow to rest to rest in a warm area for 10 minutes before cutting.
Source: Used with permission of, the world’s favorite recipe web site.

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Mary’s Memo – May 9th


More and more people are planting a vegetable garden. Since the space in mine is limited, I try to make the most of it. Helpful to me are items purchased from the Gardeners Supply Catalog at 1-800-427-3363. They include metal supports for tomatoes, a trellis to grow cucumbers and last year a bean tower for pole green beans. To protect the bean tower from “critters” a circular screen is wrapped around it. My favorite cherry tomato is the Black Cherry but two red grape tomatoes and an “early bird” tomato is included. Celebration is my tomato-of-choice. It isn’t too late for you to plant a garden and the health benefits are many!


Herb Grinders are made with gently dried, large cut leaves that lock in natural oil. As jar is twisted these oils are released to deliver a fresher taste and aroma. Choose from oregano, parsley, basil and Italian.


Trying to include more fruit in your diet? From a health standpoint, berries are one of your best bets. Berries contain many important nutrients, including vitamin C, fiber and several minerals. They are also rich in antioxidants, the substances that protect us against free radicals (unstable molecules that can damage cells such as DNA). Berries contain two types of phytonutrients called polyphenols, the same substances found in tea, red wine and chocolate, that have been linked to cardiovascular benefits. Anthocyanins, the compounds that give berries their bright color, are antioxidants. They help strengthen the immune system, boost cardiovascular health, combat inflammation and help prevent conditions such as cancer, explains Tanya Freirich, RD, a dietitian at New York-Presbyterian/Weil Cornell. “Berries also contain ellagitannins and ellagicid, which has been linked to cancer prevention, decreased inflammation and cardiovascular benefits.” Raspberries and blackberries are highest in fiber (about 8 grams per cup). Strawberries are highest in vitamin C (84 milligrams per cup) and blueberries have the highest antioxidant content. Source: Weill Cornell Medical College Women’s Nutrition Connection, May 2016.


If you like them on the spicy side you’ll want to make Alabama Fire Crackers from Sara Coe, Houston TX, via my sister Ann Trentadue. It’s important to thoroughly mix the spice mixture, oil and soda crackers together. As for the pepper flakes, adjust to your taste. Since I don’t use anything with monosodium glutamate, I replace the packages of ranch dressing mix with 2 ounces Penzeys MSG-free Ranch Dressing Mix. To order a Penzeys catalog call 1-800-741-7787.


• 1 2/3 cup vegetable oil (like canola)
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon onion powder
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
• 2 1-ounce packages Ranch Dressing Mix or 2 ounces Penzeys Ranch Dressing Mix
• 1 to 3 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
• 1 pound box saltine crackers

Place vegetable oil, garlic and onion powders, ranch dressing mix and crushed red pepper flakes in 2 gallon Ziploc bag. Seal and mix thoroughly. Add crackers and swoosh carefully to cover crackers with seasoning mixture. Let bag set for an hour and swoosh again. Keep repeating for several hours and then overnight. Remove from bag and store in a canister or clean plastic bag.

Anything with lemon will get my attention like the Food Network’s recipe for Baked Lemon Chicken. Although their recipe called for a cut-up skin on chicken or 8 pieces, I replaced it with 8 bone-in Miller thighs, skinning them to reduce the calories.


• 8 pieces chicken thighs, skin removed
• Kosher salt and pepper
• Flour for dredging
• 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
• 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
• Zest of half a lemon
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
• 1 tablespoon Our Family honey
• 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (not bottled)
• 1 cup low sodium chicken broth

Preheat oven to 4000F. Season thighs with salt and pepper. Dredge both sides in flour, shaking off excess. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add chicken and sauté until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Don’t crowd in skillet. Set thighs aside and reserve. Discard the oil and wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel. Add remaining tablespoon of oil to skillet over medium low heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and heat over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until golden, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the lemon zest, garlic, and rosemary and cook for 2 minutes more. Whisk honey, lemon juice and broth. Increase the heat and bring to a simmer. Use a slotted spoon to transfer onions to a 9x13-inch glass oven-proof baking dish, spreading them out. Arrange thighs in a single layer on onions. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Pour the liquid mixture over chicken. Bake in preheated oven, basting every 15 minutes until thighs are cooked, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve. Note: Onion mixture is delicious on mashed potatoes.
Source: Adapted from Food Network recipe

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Mary’s Memo – May 2nd


Restaurant meals may contain more than a day’s worth of calories (without drinks, appetizers, sides and desserts), says a Tufts University analysis of 364 independent and small chain spots. The highest-calorie eateries were Italian (1,556 per meal, on average), Chinese (1,478) and those serving American style cheeseburgers and rib-eye steaks (1,451). Greek, Japanese and Vietnamese meals averaged 984 calories or fewer.
Source: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on line January 19, 2016 via Consumer Reports on Health, May 2016.


Research from the United Kingdom nutrition advocacy group “Action on Sugar” highlights the excessive sugar content of certain hot beverages sold in many U.S. coffee shops and fast-food chains. Of the 131 flavored hot drinks analyzed, 35 percent contained as much or more sugar than a can of Coca Cola. For example, Starbucks’ Venti (20-ounce size) white chocolate mocha with whipped cream contains about 18 teaspoons of sugar(about 288 calories from sugar alone), while chain’s Venti chai tea latte had about 13 teaspoons (about 208 calories from sugar). Choose the drinks as an occasional treat rather than a daily beverage.
Source: Weill Cornell Medical College Women’s Nutrition Connection, May 2016.


The original recipe called for a 15.25 ounce can of cream style corn. Since the current can size is 14.5 ounces, you need to reduce the amount of bread cubes from 6 to 5 cups.


Exercise at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week; do moderate-intensity activities, such as brisk walking, swimming or tennis.

Talk with your doctor about weight-loss strategies if you are overweight; losing weight can help bring down your blood sugar levels. Work with a registered dietitian who is knowledgeable about diabetes prevention and management to create a healthier eating plan.
Source: Weill Cornell Medical College Women’s Nutrition Connection, May 2016.


Cooking for one means that I can’t bake a cake unless company is coming so I made Bailey’s Irish Cream Pound Cake Siblings Day April 10 (page 89) of my cookbook, “Thank You, I’m Glad You Liked It.” Since the cookbook was published, I’ve made one change in the recipe and that is to use only 1 tablespoon of Bailey’s Irish Cream and 1/3 cup powdered sugar in the glaze instead of double the amount.


• 1 2-layer Betty Crocker cake mix with pudding added
• 1 small package Hershey instant vanilla pudding mix
• 5 large room temperature eggs
• 1/2 cup canola oil
• 1 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans
• Glaze

Preheat oven to 3500 or 3250 if Bundt pan has a dark interior. With an electric mixer at medium speed, beat cake mix, instant pudding, eggs, oil and Bailey’s Irish Cream for 4 minutes. Grease and flour baking pan making sure every part of pan is covered. Add chopped pecans to bottom of pan; spoon batter evenly on top. Bake for 40 to 55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool 8 minutes. Turn out onto cake plate. When cold, drizzle the glaze over top of cake. To make glaze, whisk together the Bailey’s and powdered sugar.
Source: “Thank You, I’m Glad You Liked It.”


The one hundred folds in a chef toque are said to represent the 100 different methods for cooking an egg. Source: Conversation Sparks by Ryan Chapman,Chronicle Books, 2015.

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Mary’s Memo – April 25th


Not since the Greatest Generation marched off to war have Americans embraced home food gardening with such enthusiasm. With everyone from apartment dwellers to the First Family growing fresh, wholesome food, Seed to Supper, by John Tullock (Health Communications, Inc., March 29, 2016; paperback/$21.95) provides the perfect introduction to food gardening and cooking with home produce.

John Tullock is a lifelong gardener, self-taught gourmet cook and trained ecologist whose previous books have covered a range of topics including aquariums, hardy orchids, sustainable living and starting a small business. His natural Reef Aquariums sold 75,000 copies and is considered a “classic” in its subject area. Growing Hardy Orchids was named by the American Horticultural Society as one of the five best garden books of 2006. Pay Dirt released in 2010, sold over 10,000 copies during the first six months. The New American Homestead: Sustainable, Self-Sufficient Living in the Country or the City has inspired people all over the country to grow food at home. His most recent works are Idiot’s Guides: Vegetable Gardening and Idiot’s Guides: Straw Bale Gardening, both published by Alpha Books. He writes, cooks and gardens on his suburban homestead in Knoxville, Tennessee.


• 1 pound spinach leaves
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1/4 cup finely minced onions
• 2 tablespoons flour
• 4 cups milk
• 1/4 teaspoon paprika
• Fresh nutmeg
• Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or hard-cooked egg yolks for garnish
Wash spinach leaves and then dump them in boiling water. When the water returns to a boil, cook for 1 minute. Drain. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking; drain thoroughly. Squeeze the spinach by handfuls to express some additional liquid. Place the spinach in a blender jar and reserve. Melt butter in a saucepan and sauté the onions until they are softened. Stir in flour until well combined. Add the milk slowly in a stream, stirring constantly. Continue to cook until the soup thickens slightly. Pour into blender jar with spinach; allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Puree the soup, return it to the pan and add the paprika along with a few gratings of fresh nutmeg. Heat soup until it is hot (do not allow to boil). Adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve garnished with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or minced hard-cooked egg yolk. Recipe makes 4 servings.
Source: Seed to Supper, Growing & Cooking Delicious Foods No Matter Where You Live by John Tullock (HCI, March 29, 2016; paperback/$21.95).


It usually isn’t necessary. Natural antioxidants in vegetable oils help fight spoilage but all oils will eventually turn rancid, developing an off smell and taste, especially is exposed to air. While some oils have a shelf life of one or more years under normal conditions, natural or unrefined oils last only about four to six months. Refrigerated oils last longer. To keep oil fresh, store it away from heat, light and air and seal it tightly. Buy only what you will use within a few months; if you buy a larger size, you might want to refrigerate it. Flaxseed, walnut and sesame oils have a short shelf life so you’ll probably want to refrigerate them. If your oil smells or tastes rancid, it may not make you sick, but if consumed regularly, oxidized fats could have undesirable cardiovascular effects. It won’t be good anyway.
Source: University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, April 2016.


The numbers can be confusing. The Institute of Medicine advises getting 0.36 grams per pound of body weight (54 grams for a 150 pound person, for example). But the RDA for protein is 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men, and the daily percentage used on nutrition labels is based on 50 grams. Source: Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, April 2016.


Do make this entree when boneless pork loin chops are on sale. I have also made it with lean pork shoulder steak. This was a favorite when we were a family of 6.


• 6 boneless pork loin chops, cut I-inch thick and trimmed of as much fat as possible
• 1 tablespoon canola oil
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1 medium onion, chopped fine
• 6 cups bread cubes
• 1 15-ounce can cream-style corn
• 1 teaspoon powdered sage
• 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

In large skillet brown chops on both sides in hot canola oil. Remove from pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add onion to pan drippings and cook until transparent. Add bread cubes, cream style corn, sage and salt. Spoon the stuffing mixture into a 9x13-inch baking dish. Arrange pork chops on top of stuffing, cover tightly with foil and bake in preheated 3250 oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until chops are done. Recipe makes 6 servings.

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Mary’s Memo – April 18th


The spotlight this week is on Eating Appalachia by Darrin Nordahl (Chicago Review Press, 2015; hardback/$19.95). In Eating Appalachia, author Nordahl looks at the unique foods that are native to the region, including paw paws, ramps, hickory nuts, American persimmons and elk and offers delicious and award winning recipes for each ingredient.Nordahl shares twenty-three recipes and also examines some of the business, governmental and ecological issues that keep the wild and arguably tastier foods from reaching our tables. Eating Appalachia profiles local chefs, hunters and locavores who champion these native ingredients and describe food festivals like the Paw Paw Festival in Albany Ohio, the Feast of the Ransome in Richwood, Virginia and Elk Night at Jenny Wiley State Park in Kentucky. Darrin Nordahl is the author of Public Produce and Cultivating Our Parks, Plazas and Streets for Healthier Cities. He blogs daily about food at and has written for CNN, the Huffington Post and He lives in Oakland, California.


What is crème fraiche?
This matured, thickened cream has a slightly nutty flavor and a velvety texture. The thickness of crème fraiche can range from that of commercial sour cream to as solid as room temperature margarine. In France, where crème is a specialty, the cream is unpasteurized and therefore contains the bacteria necessary to thicken it naturally. In America, where all commercial milk is pasteurized, the fermenting agents necessary for crème fraiche can be obtained by adding buttermilk or sour cream. A very expensive American facsimile is sold in some gourmet markets but it is so easy to make at home. To do so, combine 1 cup of whipping cream and 2 tablespoons buttermilk in glass container. Cover and let stand at room temperature (about 700F) from 8 to 24 hours or until very thick. Stir well before covering and refrigerate up to 10 days. Crème fraiche is an ideal addition to sauces or soups because it can be boiled without curdling. Spoon it over fresh fruit or other desserts such as warm cobblers or pudding. Source: The New Food Lover’s Companion, 4th Edition, by
Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst (Barron’s Education Series, Inc.).

What is the difference between a dark raisin and a golden one?
About half of the world’s raisin supply comes from California.Both dark and golden raisins can be made from Thompson seedless grapes. The difference is that dark raisins are sundried for several weeks, thereby producing their shriveled appearance and dark color. Golden raisins have been treated with sulfur dioxide to prevent their color from darkening.


Observant Mary’s Memo readers know that my mayonnaise of choice is Hellmann’s Light. Our Family also makes a light mayonnaise so I decided to put it to the test. Our Family Light has a good flavor but Hellmann’s flavor is a tad more intense. Table of contents is almost identical with 1 tablespoon of each having 35 calories including 30 from fat. Hellmann’s more intense flavor may be due to 120 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon while a tablespoon of Our Family’s has 110 milligrams. Our Family is much cheaper of the two. It’s your choice. Although I’ll still buy Hellmann’s Light, there won’t be a problem using the Our Family brand.

Folger’s is still my favorite coffee so I take advantage of sales on Folger’s Medium Roast in Keurig cups although this winter when I was on an antibiotic I drank Folger’s Gourmet Lively Columbian Decaffeinated and found it had a robust flavor. Eight O’Clock Columbian Peaks also has an excellent taste. For a low calorie, low sodium popcorn, try a bag of Skinny Pop, available at Chief.


My daughter-in-law, Kelly, brought a beet salad to our Easter dinner. I love red beets, either fresh or canned, and eat them a couple times a week. Kelly made it with goat cheese although original recipe called for feta because she preferred it. Feel free to use either.


For salad:
• 4 medium beetroots
• 1/3 cup cubed goat cheese (or feta)
• 2 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
• Lemon vinaigrette

For lemon vinaigrette:
• 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Boil the beetroots on medium heat for 45 minutes or until they can be easily pierced through with a knife. The skin will peel off easily. After removing the skin of the beetroots, chop into cubes and do the same with goat cheese. Roughly chop cilantro. Combine with vinaigrette and serve. For lemon vinaigrette, mix all ingredients together and whisk slightly. Recipe makes 6 servings. Source Adapted from internet Scrambled Chefs recipe

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Mary’s Memo – April 11th


You’ve been encouraged before to call food company tollfree numbers. Cleaning out a kitchen cupboard, I had several boxes of cake mix and not knowing which ones to keep I called the Betty Crocker toll-free number. Of the 4 boxes I had only one was still usable. But that wasn’t all that I learned from talking to a General Mills spokesperson. She advised me to check the expiration date on the package because they will not be the same and pick the box with the latest expiration date.


An accompanying editorial by cardiologists from the Atlanta VA Medical Center and Emory University focused on coffee, the major source of caffeine in the US Diet: Recently published studies, including prospective cohorts, clinical investigations and meta-analysis, generally show coffee consumption is safe for the heart. Concerning cardiovascular risk factors, there is little evidence that chronic coffee intake raises blood pressure. “Boiled coffee brewing (e.g. French press) may raise atherogenic lipid levels and other brewing method do not appear to have this effect,” Peter W.F. Wilson, and Heather L. Bloom, MD, continued. “Finally, there is little risk for atrial or ventricular arrhythmia at most of the levels of caffeine consumption in our society.” Dr. Marcus noted that some evidence even suggests caffeine might be associated with lower risk of atrial fibrillation. None of this means you should start consuming caffeine if you don’t already or that you shouldn’t avoid it if it makes you jittery or keeps you from sleeping. But if a little caffeine from coffee or tea helps you get going in the morning or picks you up in mid-afternoon or you just plain enjoy the flavor, you can go ahead without worrying it will make your heart skip a beat. Source: Tufts Diet & Nutrition News Letter, April 2016.


People who followed the MIND diet only some of the time still had a 35% lower risk of disease. Chances are, you purposely ate something today that you knew was heart healthy, but you probably didn’t give thought to feeding your brain. Only recently have researchers begun to study the link between diet and cognitive function, and the findings are promising. “You can’t control your genes, which are mostly responsible for any decline in brain function as we age, but with diet, there’s the potential to do something.” says Lon S Schneider, M.D. a professor of psychiatry, neurology and gerontology at the University of Southern California. But it takes more than eating familiar “brain” foods such as fish and blueberries once in a while. ”It is what we eat as a whole, says Martha Clare Morris, Sc.D., director of nutrition and nutritional epidemiology at the Rush Medical Center. Research by Morris and her colleagues shows that following a diet that includes the right foods in the right combination can take years off your brain. The MIND diet is a hybrid of the heart-healthy Mediterranean-DASH diets. (MIND stands for Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.) It limits red meat, butter and stick margarine, pastries and sweets, fried fast food and cheese. The Rush team studied the diets of almost 1,000 elderly adults, who were followed for an average of 4 1/2 years. People whose diets were most strongly in line with the MIND diet had brains that functioned as if they were 7 1/2 years younger than those whose diets least resembled this eating style. A follow up study showed that they also cut their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in half, People who followed the plan only some of the time still had a 35 percent lower risk. Working these foods into your diet can help keep your mind sharp and your entire body healthy. Source: Consumer Reports on Health, April 2016.


My brother-in-law, Sam Trentadue, calls what I do to a recipe as “Maryanizing” it. That would be the case with Betty Crocker’s Smothered Chicken Casserole. Instead of regular angel hair pasta, I used Our Family Whole Wheat. I replaced regular Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup with their Healthy Request kind and opted for a can of evaporated milk when the original recipe called for half and half. It proved to be a good idea as pasta needed the extra moisture. I also skipped 3 slices of cooked and crumbled bacon and garnished with chopped parsley.


• 1 TB olive oil
• 4 boneless, skinless thighs
• 1/2 tsp McCormick Garlic Salt from California
• 1/4 tsp pepper
• 6 oz Our Family Whole Wheat angel hair pasta
• 1 can Campbell’s Healthy Request Cream of Chicken
• 1 can evaporated milk
• 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
• 2 cups Green Giant Steamers frozen broccoli florets, cut in smaller pieces

Heat oven to 3500F. Spray a 2½ quart casserole with cooking spray. In 10-inch skillet , heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken thighs, sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper. Cook chicken 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until golden brown and juice of chicken runs clear. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. In large bowl, mix soup, evaporated milk and paprika; reserve ¾ cup sauce mixture. Stir in cooked pasta and frozen broccoli. Spoon pasta mixture into casserole; top with thighs. Spoon reserved sauce over chicken thighs. Cover and bake 20 minutes; uncover and bake 10 to 15 minutes or until sauce bubbles. Before serving, garnish with chopped parsley.

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Mary’s Memo – April 4th


The skins of fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients. However, peeling off skin does not necessarily mean you are missing out on valuable nutrients, it depends on the food. For example, the red color in tomatoes and red peppers and the orange color in oranges are phytochemicals that act as antioxidants, which helps protect you from cell damage that may lead to cancers. These pigments and antioxidants are available throughout the fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, peeling other produce, like apples and potatoes, does result in some nutrient loss. For instance, the amount of vitamin C in unpeeled and peeled apples is similar, about 8 milligrams (mg) in apples with skin and 6 mg in apples without the skin. However, about 50 percent of the apple’s fiber is lost. When you peel a potato, you are losing fiber as well as potassium, folate, vitamin C and other important vitamins and minerals. When consuming fruits and vegetables, wash them thoroughly and eat the skins for maximum fiber and antioxidant benefits. Source: Weill Cornell Medical College Women’s Nutrition Connection, April 2016.


Raspberries have a number of heart and brain-health protective essential nutrients, according to a review of scientific literature published in the January 2016 issue of Advances in Nutrition. Components in raspberries contain anthocyanins, which are known to suppress inflammation, while their high polyphenol content may also help prevent platelet buildup and reduce blood pressure. Raspberries have “potential to help reduce factors contributing to metabolic syndrome, which has implications for diabetes development and overall cardiovascular and brain health,” says lead author Britt M. Burton-Freeman, PhD, MS, Institute for Food Safety & Health, Illinois Institute of Technology. Source: Duke Medicine, April 2016.


Regarding Folic Acid and Folate, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that most adults consume 400 micro milligrams (mcg) of folic acid per day, a vitamin you’ll find in dark leafy greens, fruit, beans and eggs. But don’t get more than 1000 mcg of folic acid per day, a form of folate used in dietary supplements and fortified foods. Too much can mask vitamin B 12 deficiency, most likely to be seen among people over 50 and older and vegetarians. “Untreated, that can lead to nerve damage, cognitive trouble and even psychiatric problems,” says Consumer Reports ”medical director, Orly Avtzur, MD. Research suggests that daily folic acid supplements of 300 to 800 mcg per day was associated with cognitive decline. Many manufacturers add folic acid to such products as enriched bread, cereal, flour, pasta and rice.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, April 2016.


Betty Crocker’s Luscious Lemon Squares are perfect for a neighborhood coffee or for dessert. Be sure you use fresh lemon juice, not bottled. There’s a lot of difference in flavor!


• 1 cup Gold Medal all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup butter, softened
• 1/4 cup powdered sugar
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 2 teaspoons fresh grated lemon peel (zest)
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 2 eggs
• Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 3500F. Mix flour, butter and powdered sugar. Press in ungreased 8x8x2 or 9x9x2 inches, building up 1/2 inch edges. Bake crust 20 minutes. Beat granulated sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, baking powder, salt and eggs with electric mixer on high speed about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Pour over hot crust. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until no indentation remains when touched lightly in center. Cool; dust with powdered sugar. Cut into ½ inch squares.
Source: Betty Crocker recipe.


Chief Supermarkets carry a quality lemon curd and so does Williams Sonoma but neither compare to one shared by a Bryan lady originally from Wales. Of all the cookies we make at Christmas. Lemon Curd Tarts are the first ones eaten. I make homemade pie crust shells in miniature muffin pans but this year daughter Mary Ann used Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts for her homemade curd.

LEMON CURD (An English Recipe)

• 1/2 cup butter
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 1 1/4 cups strained fresh lemon juice
• 4 large eggs
• 2 tablespoons lemon zest

Melt butter in top of a stainless steel double boiler over simmering water. Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Continue cooking, stirring frequently until thick and smooth, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool, then store in the refrigerator. To serve, fill miniature tart shells, Curd is also good on English muffins.

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