There is a saying that goes like this: “Be careful what you pray for,” meaning that your request may be granted in an unexpected (and possibly undesired) way. Recently I had been looking at all the boxes of books and other stuff in my basement and praying for the “oomph” to go through them. However, other more important tasks took possession of my time. Then my basement flooded during the deluge of a couple of weeks ago. After the water was dealt with and I began to sort through stuff, I couldn’t help all the trips down memory lane.
I guess I could say that I literally “leafed through” some books belonging to my dad –four-leaf clovers were a testament to the fact that they were his. Dad could spot the four-leaf variety anywhere clovers grew. He even found several with five or six leaves. I don’t know why he thought they should be preserved for posterity. Dad has been gone for thirty years now, but the dried clovers attest to his ability to find them.
Another book that made me stop and reflect had no cover. The book had belonged to my great aunt, Myrtle. There was a devotion for each day of the week, with a blank space beside it to record birthdays and significant events. Aunt Myrtle had written family birthdays, as well as other dates significant to each particular person. I loved the times I spent with Aunt Myrtle as a child. She was also my step-grandmother, as she married my grandfather after her sister (my grandmother) passed away.
College textbooks took me to another time and place; it was where I met my late husband. For some reason, I recalled a late Saturday morning when Bob and I had been to a mountain park in Upper East Tennessee. I had not had anything to eat for quite some time, and we were headed down the mountain, planning to stop and get lunch on our way back to school. All the curves did quite a number on my tummy (I was very prone to getting carsick). I couldn’t say how many times Bob had to stop the car for me to be ill. Our restaurant plans vanished; we stopped at a grocery store to purchase a can of chicken soup and crackers for me to take back to my dorm room. Bob ate in the college cafeteria.
I found items that had belonged to my children, flooding my mind with days of being a mother of three small children. And then three teenagers. Now those children are making memories with children of their own.
The hardest thing I had to deal with was a stack of Bob’s clothing. I had kept some of his favorite shirts, fully intending on making something out of them – a quilt, a pillow, stuffed animals – I wasn’t sure what, but something that would be a reminder of him. The shirts didn’t get wet, but they were musty smelling and needed to be washed. As I pulled them out of the drier, it was hard to resist the second-nature of putting them on hangers and taking them upstairs to the closet. I have to say that tears flowed as I restacked them and stashed them away.
To complete this trip down memory lane, I am going to include recipes that remind me of happy times with my family. The cookie recipe is one my mother used, and one of the first ones I learned to make. My son Adam loves the chicken and has requested it often. Mom’s asparagus casserole was always a hit at family reunions.
Peanut Butter Cookies
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg, unbeaten
1/2 cup peanut butter
1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Cream shortening until soft. Add sugar gradually and cream until fluffy. Add egg; mix well. Stir in peanut butter. Sift together flour and baking soda; add to peanut butter mixture, stirring until combined.
Roll into balls not more than 1 inch in diameter. Place balls onto ungreased baking sheet. Flatten with fork (I use a meat-tenderizing hammer). Bake in hot oven (425 degrees) 8-12 minutes. Yield: 30 small cookies.
Of course I had to make some after writing about them – they were as good as I remembered them to be!
Creamy Almond Chicken
2/3 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup butter or margarine, divided
6 chicken breast halves, skinned and boned
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 cups whipping cream (may use unsweetened almond milk)
1 tablespoon brown mustard
1/4 cup apricot preserves, mashed (may use fruit only variety)
1/8 teaspoon red pepper
Hot cooked rice
Sauté almonds in 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet; set aside.
Place chicken between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; flatten to 1/4-inch thickness, using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
Melt remaining butter in skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, and cook about 1 minute on each side or until golden brown. Reduce heat to medium; add 1/2 cup almonds, whipping cream, and next 3 ingredients, stirring well. Cook about 10 minutes or until sauce thickens. Sprinkle with remaining almonds; serve with rice. Yield: 6 servings.
Note: I have omitted the almonds and the recipe is still wonderful.
Alice’s Asparagus Casserole
2 (14.5 ounce) cans cut asparagus,
1 can condensed cream of celery soup
1 large or 2 small cans potato sticks
1-1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
Drain asparagus, reserving 1/2 cup of liquid. In small bowl, mix reserved liquid and cream of celery soup. Set aside.
Grease a 1-1/2 or 2-quart baking dish. Place 1 cup potato sticks in bottom of dish. Spread half the asparagus over the potato sticks. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layers. Pour soup mixture over layers. Cover top with potato sticks and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, or until hot and bubbly with cheese beginning to brown.