Some people consider the number thirteen to be unlucky, and they go to great lengths to avoid it. For instance, according to history.com, many United States hotels and high-rise buildings do not have a thirteenth floor. Airports avoid numbering gates “13;” hotels do the same with rooms. Parents often shudder when a child reaches the age of thirteen, knowing that their son or daughter has reached the oft-dreaded teenage years.
The question might be asked, “What’s with all the talk about thirteen? Are you superstitious?” “No” is the answer to the second query. As to the first: On July 13, 2006, my first newspaper column appeared in The Shelbyville News. Add up the number of years I have continued to write Cooks’ Corner and the sum will be thirteen. Somehow, it doesn’t seem possible. However, the list of recipes that I have provided is up to 1,409. Of those, several have been repeated at various times. That number does not include the many dishes I have prepared that did not turn out as expected, therefore losing a chance to find a place in one of my weekly submissions.
A lot has happened during the past thirteen years. When I started writing Cooks’ Corner, I had one grandchild. The current number is seven. My husband, Bob, who was my biggest fan, lost his battle with multiple myeloma in October of 2012. With my taste-tester gone, I sometimes wanted to give up; however, there was something in me that needed to keep writing. It was one thing that stayed the same in a world of upheaval and finding a new “normal.” I can’t say I have discovered normal, but I can attest to the fact that there are now more weeks of columns written without Bob than there were with him, even though I still miss him terribly.
Another milestone for me happened in November of 2015 – the publication of my book, Seeds of Light, Seeds of Joy. It was very exciting when I received the first copy of it in the mail! I am thankful for the people who have conveyed how the book has blessed them, as it means a lot to authors to hear that their efforts were not in vain. Along those same lines, many readers of Cooks’ Corner have made an effort to inform me that they enjoy reading my columns. Some people like the stories, some prefer the recipes, and quite a few are fans of both the stories and the recipes. I want to say “Thank You!” to the folks who have taken the time to encourage me along the way.
My main inspiration for writing has always been the Lord. He has provided so much over the years of my life. He gives me strength to face each new day, especially since losing my husband. He furnishes ideas when I am faced with a case of writer’s block. I can’t even begin to count the times I have prayed for something to write about; the answer may be last minute, but it has never failed to be there. I have always felt like my first submission to The Shelbyville News was a “God-thing,” as I was hesitant to send it in after I wrote it. Yet it was that very article that started my thirteen-year tenure as the Cooks’ Corner columnist.
When deciding on recipes for the week, I chose to pick some of my favorites. It was hard to narrow down my selections, but I opted for dishes that my family and I enjoyed before I ever started my writing “career.” I had to increase the amounts in Savory Chicken Sauté when I prepared it for my family since it makes only two servings, but it was well worth the effort. The layered dinner appeared in my very first column; it makes a nice meal when served with a salad and some type of bread. Apple Squares have been a favorite for quite a while, and people often ask for the recipe when I take a batch somewhere. I usually double the recipe and bake in a 9-by-13-inch pan.
Savory Chicken Sauté
4 slices bacon (or use 1 tablespoon canola oil and 2 tablespoons REAL bacon bits)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 cup diced tomatoes with juice
Dash of poultry seasoning
Dash of ground red pepper
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Hot cooked rice or pasta
Cook bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp; remove bacon, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon, and set aside.
Place each piece of chicken between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, and flatten to one fourth-inch thickness, using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Combine flour, salt, and pepper, and dredge chicken in flour mixture.
Heat 1 tablespoon bacon drippings or canola oil in skillet over medium heat. Add chicken, and cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Add garlic and onion; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until onion is crisp-tender. Add tomatoes and next 5 ingredients; simmer 5 minutes. Serve over hot cooked rice or pasta. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon or REAL bacon bits. Yield: 2 servings.
Six-Layer Baked Dinner
1 pound ground beef, lean and uncooked
3 or 4 medium white potatoes, sliced
1 onion, sliced or chopped
1/2 cup white rice, uncooked
2 medium carrots, sliced thin
1 large can tomatoes, (I use diced tomatoes), undrained
Layer the potatoes, onions, rice, hamburger, and carrots in a large oven-safe dish and top with tomatoes, sprinkling salt and pepper on each layer. Cover and bake in a 350-degree oven for 3 hours.
Optional: After baking, sprinkle with grated Cheddar cheese.
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pared cooking apple
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
Cinnamon Sugar (recipe follows)
Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon onto wax paper.
Melt butter in a medium-size saucepan over moderate heat. (I use the microwave and a bowl.) Remove from heat. Beat in sugars, egg, and vanilla with a wooden spoon until smooth.
Stir in flour mixture, apple and walnuts until thoroughly combined. Spread into a greased 8-inch square pan. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) for 30 minutes, or until top springs back when lightly pressed with fingertip. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares.
Cinnamon Sugar: Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Store in jar with a screw-top lid.