Archive for the ‘A little story’ Category

My mother made good on her promise.

My mother was a hero.

In January of 1978 my brother Richard and his wife were flying home from their vacation, and would be stopping by my parent’s home to pick up Sam, their dog. Sam had been my dog, but since moving into their new home which was all decorated in white—white wool carpet, white sofa, white upholstered dining room chairs—and with me off at college, the dog had gone to live with Richard. I was six when my mother promised me that I could have a dog, but only if I could wait until I turned twelve. I didn’t mention the dog thing again until my twelfth birthday and then, surprisingly, my mother made good on her promise. I think she felt guilty that I would be home alone, with the last of my three older siblings heading off to college. The fact that my mother took me shopping for a puppy is the first example of my mom as a hero, since she was not a dog person (note the white carpet and white furniture). In addition to a lot of white, the new home had slick parquet floors, in a great open area which at its longest spanned 55 feet, and which sat atop 6″ of hollow-core concrete slabs. My dad was in the precast concrete business and there was a lot of structural concrete in the new home. After over 25 years (they had paid off the mortgage) in a 1920’s era home with the creakiest of floors, my father was proud of the solid floors in this new dream house. One could sneak from room to room in the new house without the slightest sound. There was no give to these floors.

Mom had prepared Richard’s favorite lasagna for dinner, and it sat on the counter waiting to go in the oven. A proficient multi-tasker long before they had a word for it, she phoned the airline to see when the plane would be arriving at O’Hare, and while on hold she took a minute to lay down the phone and run into the other room for a moment. Mom always had hot feet and instead of shoes or slippers she wore those nude-colored knee-high stockings. She had a drawer stuffed with hundreds of them in all shades of nudes and beige and taupe. As she ran into the other room, while the airline played hold-music, she slipped on the smooth parquet, and her hip landed right on that 6″ of immovable, hollow-core concrete, and broke.

Realizing that it was painful to walk, Mom crawled into the kitchen and somehow put the lasagna in the oven. She managed to get to the couch to wait until my brother arrived and called an ambulance. On her way out the door, on a stretcher, she told us when the lasagna would be ready and that we should be sure to check on it and sit down to eat it while it was hot. My hero.

An old recipe, with my regards to Dan Quayle.

–  –  –  –  –

I didn’t break anything, I only had a cold, and so I can’t claim to be anywhere in a league with Ruth Gordon. Yet even though I was feeling ill I felt compelled by that mysterious, maternal force to produce a meal.  The day before I had taken out the bag of frozen turkey scraps which had been in the freezer since Thanksgiving, and it was time to use them or toss them. As I lay in bed all day, feeling sorry for my pitiful virus, I contemplated the thawed turkey scraps and how I had planned on a lovely pot pie for dinner. Feeling the need to make dinner, and also feeling very lazy, I made a hurry-up version of a pot pie, making more of a cobbler than a pie. I made pot-pie filling as usual, poured it into a casserole dish, then mixed up a batch of biscuits in the food processor and glopped on bits of the biscuit dough on top of the filling,

Last night we had Turkey Cobbler for the third night in a row. Max asked me how much more of it there was and when I replied, sheepishly, that he must be sick of it, he said, “No, I could eat this every night for weeks! I love this!” I think I just invented Max’s favorite dinner, which I can make when he comes to visit me some day, when I’m watching his dog. I will endeavor to be a heroic mother. I will not, however, ever have a home that is decorated in all white.

With a father who loves biscuits and gravy, and a teenage boy's love of carbs, it makes sense that this is Max's new favorite meal.


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My sister Maralee’s dinner tonight sounded so wonderful that I asked her to take a picture of it and write about it for my blog. This is from Maralee.

Last week I was having the Crystal Lake Interfaith Clergy Group over to the synagogue for lunch, and I bought all the ingredients for lasagna.  Then it turned out we had some lasagna in the synagogue freezer, made by the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade boys in their social action group, and we had to use up before Passover.  So there I was—stuck with the ingredients, which I brought home.  Tonight I decided to use those ingredients to make lasagna at home, but there was one problem—we try to only use whole wheat pasta, and the leftover noodles were white!  This is how I came to invent a new dish:  Spaghetti Lasagna.  It’s a quick dish to make, and here is how I did it:

Spaghetti Lasagna

  • Barilla Italian Bake Pasta Sauce, 2 jars (or use your favorite)
  • Ricotta cheese, 32 oz.
  • Shredded Mozzarella, 16 oz.
  • Shredded parmesan, ½ cup
  • frozen chopped spinach, ten oz. package, thawed
  • sliced baby portabella mushrooms, half a pound, uncooked
  • spaghetti noodles, 1 lb., uncooked

In a 9×13 Pyrex dish pour a little of the sauce from each of the jars to cover the bottom.

Lay half the spaghetti length-wise to cover the entire dish—you might want to break some in half to fill in the ends.

Pour the rest of one jar of sauce over the spaghetti and place sliced mushrooms over the sauce to cover (some slices were too thick and I sliced them thinner).

Spread half the ricotta over the mushroomed sauce (I spread it by hand).

Sprinkle half the mozzarella over the ricotta, and ¼ cup of the Parmesan,

Lay the other half of the spaghetti over the cheese,

Mix the spinach with the rest of the sauce and spread over the spaghetti,

Finish off with the rest of the ricotta followed by the rest of the mozzarella and parmesan.

Bake for 50 minutes.

Here we are, happy together in my kitchen, last year at Pesach.

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My daughter told me that I see the world with my stomach, and I think she has a point. I connect food with people and experiences. That’s the case with these unusual cupcakes. Whenever I eat these I think about my exceptional friend, Donna, who first made them for me and Doug, in her kitchen in Alaska.

Doug and I had been married for six months when we moved from Chicago to Colorado. Doug had lived there before and with his long connection to wilderness adventures he was anxious to show me the sites he had loved. Once in Ft. Collins, we quickly unpacked our boxes and then got on a plane to Alaska. This would be our last grand vacation before the arduous years of Doug’s PhD work. We chose Alaska, where I had lived and worked for two summers, so I could show Doug the places I had loved.

Donna and I had both graduated together on June 6, 1980, and the day after graduation we were both on a plane for Anchorage. I spent two summers living and working there and then returned to my familiar world in Chicago. Donna never left Alaska. She and her family had a home just outside of Denali Park, and that’s where Doug and I headed for our vacation. We stayed in their friend’s cabin down the road, and joined Donna’s family each night for dinner. It was there that she made us these cupcakes. After growing up eating all of my mother’s delicious baked goods, it was unusual for me to be surprised by a dessert, but after the first amazing taste I wondered why in the world no one had told me about these before! I’d never tasted a cupcake that used two different batters—one like a chocolate cake, and the other like chocolate chip cheesecake. I seem to remember that Donna whipped up two more batches of these during the week.

Now when I make these, I am transported to Donna’s kitchen, her drawer filled with large bags of baking supplies, the snow in the woods, and I remember what an exceptional person she is and what a wonderful friend she has been.

Black Bottom Cupcakes

For the chocolate batter:

Mix together:

  • 1-1/2 c. flour
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 c. cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Mix together:

  • 3/4 c. water
  • 1/3 c. oil
  • 1 Tsp. vinegar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Add the liquid mixture to the dry, stir until blended. Using a 1/3 c. measure, spoon this batter into cupcake pans lined with paper cups.

For the cheese filling:

Beat together:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Stir in:

  • 1 c. chocolate chips

Top the chocolate batter with a generous spoonful of the cheese mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 mins., or until the tops are just touched with a tiny bit of golden brown.

This is what they look like before baking.

Cautionary note: this is one recipe where you really must use paper liners.

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The tiny sweet bell peppers are a perfect edible garnish for the standard vegies.

My mother made an extraordinary spinach dip. For the most part, Ruth was a “scratch” cook and baker, steering clear of prepackaged products: there was no Hamburger Helper for us, no cake mixes, and no t.v. dinners sitting forlornly on plastic t.v. trays. There were, however, those occasionally recipes, which I can only imagine were torn out of a Life magazine, or peeled from a product’s can, which used some questionable ingredients. The sauce for her famous stuffed cabbage rolls, for example, uses a jar of sweet pickle juice and a handful of ginger snaps, and the spinach dip uses a package of Knorr’s Leek Soup Mix, and a shake of McCormick Salad Supreme. For years when I made the spinach dip I stayed true to the recipe, but these days I try to use whole ingredients when I can, so when I made this for a New Year’s party I did a bit of updating, with no apologies to Mr. McCormick or Mr. Knorr.

Spinach Dip

  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 package frozen, shopped spinach, thawed, well drained, and squeezed as dry as possible
  • 1/2 c. fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp. dill weed
  • 1/4 tsp. sesame seed
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1 small garlic clove, pressed
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Mix all together at least one hour before serving. Serve with fresh vegetables.

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This soup is packed with a lot of vegetables, and the sweet potato makes it lusciously sweet for the kids.

This was our Halloween brew, served up tonight to friends and neighbors before, during, and after trick-or-treating. I kept the pot hot and ready, along with a loaf of challah and some good butter. Traditionally I serve this to my kids and their friends as a way of infusing their bodies with mega-nutrients prior to trick or treating. This accomplishes three things: 1. They take in some vitamins in addition to all of the candy that they will later eat. 2. They’re full of the good stuff so that they’re not as hungry for so much candy. 3. It gives me the illusion of having some control over their diet on Halloween.

Plus this is such a fun pre- trick or treat activity! Print out the top half of the following recipe for them to refer to as they eat. Ask them to try and identify all of the ingredients while they are eating. (The “real” recipe follows.) Next year, invite the neighborhood kids in.

Witches Brew Soup

  • 3 cups fresh goblin toes, chunked
  • 1 cup diced hippo spleen
  • 1/2 cup lightly shredded eel skin
  • 2 cups abdomen of preying mantis, cut in half
  • 1 cup arachnid bodies
  • 1 cup frog kidneys (canned or fresh)
  • 2 cups irises of owl eyes
  • 1 cup frozen or canned devils teeth
  • 1 cup packed creeping violet leaves
  • 1/2 cup tortoise knee caps
  • 3/4 cup dragon’s dandruff
  • salt and garlic to taste

Saute eel skin in a little extra virgin olive oil. Add all of the ingredients in a big cauldron. Fill cauldron with enough fresh mountain river water (be sure it’s clean) to just cover. Boil for 3 hours. Serve hot. Enjoy!


Witches Brew Soup (serves 8-10)

  • 1 large sweet potato, chunked
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh green beans, cut in half
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 2  carrots, sliced
  • 1 c. frozen corn, or one can
  • 1 c. packed kale, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 c. sliced cabbage
  • 1/2 c. brown rice
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in a little extra virgin olive oil. Add all of the ingredients in a big pot. Fill cauldron with enough water to just cover. Bring to boil, then simmer for 2 or 3 hours. After the vegetables are soft, use the back of a large spoon to smash some of the sweet potato chunks against the inside of the pot. This will thicken and sweeten the broth.

copyright 2010 Dori Gordon Walker

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We ate our Swedish meatballs with plum jam and a side of Greener Greens.


Meatballs to Swedes are like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are to Americans—a kid’s lunch-time staple. We lived there for two years when Max and Molly were toddlers. They attended a morning preschool, and as we would leave each day the mothers would ask each other what they were fixing for lunch. More often than not, the answer would be kötbullar (shutte boo’-lar), literally, meat balls. They were sold precooked and frozen in plastic bags. Traditionally the meatballs are served with lingonsylt, or lingonberry jam.

Tonight I took some American liberties with the recipe: substituting ground turkey for beef; low-fat milk for cream; olive oil for some of the butter; and plum jam for lingonberry. The tart plum jam tasted remarkably like lingonberry!

Swedish Meatballs (makes about 4 dozen)

  • 1 small onion, very finely chopped
  • 2-3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1-1/2 lbs. ground meat (beef, turkey, pork, or a combination)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1-1/2 c. bread crumbs
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped parsley
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1 bouillon cube
  • 1/2 tsp. instant coffee
  • 1-1/2 c. milk

Saute onion in 1 Tbs. of the olive oil until soft. In a large bowl combine meat, egg, milk, bread crumbs, parsley, spices and sauteed onion. Mix well with your hands and form into small meatballs (about 3/4″). Brown the meatballs in a little more olive oil, turning them to brown 3-4 sides. Either do these in two batches or use two large frying pans and do them all at once.

Remove the meatballs from the pan, and make the gravy. Dissolve the bouillon cube in a little hot water. Melt the butter, stir in the bouillon, coffee and flour. Slowly add the 1-1/2 c. milk to make a gravy. Add all of the meatballs to the gravy, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, basting occasionally. Serve with rice or noodles.

For the description of Greener Greens click here.

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I started eating rye toast this week, which is a sure sign that I am becoming an old person. My sister disagrees, since she has always enjoyed rye toast. Nevertheless, after surprising myself by ordering it at the local diner at breakfast on Monday, I actually purchased an entire loaf at the supermarket. Necessity being the mother of invention, I made today’s breakfast. Startlingly tasty, it’s a very youthful way to enjoy rye.

Sunrise Rye

Toast the rye bread and lightly butter one side. Cut a piece of provolone in half, lay it over the buttered side and place the toast under the broiler until the cheese melts. Top with a tart preserves (I used cherry-blueberry), or marmalade.

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