French Toast

When the four daughters of Jerri’s oldest brother compiled The Krehbiel Family Cookbook to preserve some of the recipes their mother used to feed her family, they included a final section titled “Other Great Recipes.”

Some are clearly recipes devised by the girls. For instance, they prefaced their instructions for making “Plain Macaroni” by noting that it was “A favorite main dish when Daddy and Mother had bridge club and we got to cook supper.”

Others are commentaries on remembered dishes. Someone contributed this note: “Heart, Tongue, Rabbit, Goat Meat and other delicacies: Remember all these special meals we had?? Kids today don’t know how easy their life is.”

Still others recognize the kitchen skills of their father. There is one for pancakes “(From Daddy, Carrie and Erica think Grandpa is famous for his pancakes)” which begins “Mix pancake batter according to package directions. Be sure to add an egg or two and use milk instead of water. Stir in any additions. Cook on griddle.” Suggested additions included applesauce, bananas and canned fruits.

Following this entry which helps explain why grandfathers love their grandchildren is a recipe for French Toast with an important piece of wisdom that was probably imparted by Grandpa to his idolators as they watched him cook their breakfast. The recipe is worth quoting in its entirety.

“French Toast: (From Daddy, another breakfast favorite!!) Mix eggs, milk, cinnamon and sugar. Dip in bread (stale is best, be sure to tear off any moldy parts). Cook on griddle. Serve with butter and syrup. Yummy!!”

My recipe for French toast is an upscale version, but I also watch to make sure that no moldy parts end up on the griddle. Incidentally, our grandson thinks my French toast is the best ever.

Here is how to make enough French toast for one hungry grandson and two adults or four hungry adults.


5 large eggs
2 T sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 to 2 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Slices of stale bread


Start heating the griddle to about 350º or put a skillet over moderate heat while you make the batter.

Beat the eggs until they are lemon colored. Beat in the sugar, salt and cinnamon followed by the milk.

Grease the griddle or skillet lightly with cooking spray or shortening. Test that the cooking surface is the right temperature with a drop or two of water. If it sizzles and bounces, you are ready to cook your French toast.

Dip slices of bread in the batter so all surfaces of the bread are moist. If you are using stale bread, you can turn each slice a couple of times to allow the batter to penetrate the bread. Fry the slices for about two minutes, then turn them over to cook the top side. Both sides should be lightly browned.

Serve with butter and maple syrup.

NOTES: Whole milk works best for French toast, but reduced-fat milk is okay. A couple of times while camping I have made French toast with powdered milk, and it all got eaten.

Fresh strawberries, raspberries or blueberries are tasty additions to the topping.

Stale bread really is best for making French toast. Thick-sliced French or Italian bread is especially good and whole wheat bread works well too. Just let it sit for three or four days, then get up twenty minutes earlier than usual and treat your family to a fantastic breakfast.

I like bacon or sausage with my French toast. Protein, I need some protein!

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Cranberry Banana Bowl

I did it again. Another bag of bananas on sale at a local convenience store, another impulse buy. This time I asked the clerk to weigh the bag to support my argument for the purchase when I got home. “Five point seven pounds,” I explained as I walked in the door before Jerri could roll her eyes in disbelief. “We can share some bananas with the neighbors and still enjoy a bargain dessert or two.”

Problem solved. Our neighbors got a few bananas, Jerri was more understanding of my enthusiasm than I expected, and she invented a new dessert that is also a wonderful breakfast side dish: Sliced bananas in cranberry sauce. She made it with cranberry sauce left over from Thanksgiving. For some reason, the sauce did not jell as much as usual. The cranberries in what was basically a heavy syrup went beautifully with the bananas.

My guess is that she used a little too much water when she made the cranberry sauce. If you follow her recipe but use an extra quarter cup of water, you should have about the right consistency.

I decided to see if commercial canned cranberry sauce would work. I started by spooning some cranberries from the can over the sliced banana. The sauce was too thick, so I added a tablespoon of water to a half cup of sauce and heated the mixture enough so I could stir it together. It was very sweet, so I added a teaspoon of lemon juice.

The result was pretty good but not as tasty as the combination made with the homemade sauce. A little more lemon juice might help.

Now, the recipe for two servings:

1 large banana
1/2 cup juicy cranberry sauce


Cut the banana into one-eighth-inch slices. Gently mix the cranberry sauce with the banana slices. Enjoy.

NOTE: One of the most important things I learned from this experiment was that Jerri’s cranberry sauce has more flavor and is not as sweet as the commercial version. Maybe this is because commercial cranberry sauce is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar or possibly it’s just sweeter than I prefer.

Sometime you might want to arrange a taste test. Make a batch of cranberry sauce using Jerri’s recipe, cool it and then compare the flavor with the commercial sauce. The one you prefer really doesn’t matter, but you should be able to distinguish the difference.

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Fried Parsnips

My father loved fried parsnips, so we planted them every year. The sandy soil of our garden plot meant that we had to dress it with composted manure from my grandfather’s farm, and I suspect that Dad spread extra on that part of the garden where the parsnip seeds would be planted. Parsnips do well in sandy soil with plenty of compost to hold moisture and provide nutrients.

When October arrived, Mom or Dad would dig a couple of parsnips “to see if they were ready.” If they were sweet, fried parsnips would begin appearing on the table a couple of times a week. If they still tasted more like carrots, we would wait for harder frosts to turn more parsnip starch into sugar. I don’t remember that we left the parsnips in the ground through the winter, but Dad and I dug some after the top inch or two of soil was frozen. Parsnips need frost to ripen properly and are often left to overwinter in the ground where winter is less severe than in northern Wisconsin.

Though many people are unfamiliar with them today, parsnips were one of the premier root vegetables in Europe and the United States until the middle of the nineteenth century. The wild ancestor of the parsnip is found in many parts of Europe and Asia and was cultivated by the Greeks and Romans over 2,000 years ago.

The parsnip has a long and distinguished history. It was a vegetable enjoyed by commoners and royalty alike. According to the Roman historian Pliny the Elder, the emperor Tiberius Caesar loved parsnips and imported loads of them from farmers who grew them along the Rhine river in northern Germany. He reportedly even accepted parsnips as part of the tribute (taxes) paid by the province.

In northern Europe where parsnips grew especially well, they were a staple. They went into the soup pot, were fried or roasted and were even eaten as a sweet dessert. Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare both probably enjoyed parsnip pie, and even the playwright might occasionally have been able to afford a luxurious dish of parsnips with an orange and marigold sauce garnished with slices of that exotic fruit.

I have never eaten a parsnip pie or any other parsnip dessert, but I was forced to eat my share of fried parsnips. For that I am thankful. We learn to enjoy the foods that our parents and friends introduce us to. Some food writers say that parsnips are an acquired taste. This is true. However, all foods are acquired tastes. Hunger helps too.

Many years ago, my youngest sister, Pam, told me that her son, Ben, would like to go trout fishing with me. He was about twelve years old at the time. We arranged for me to take him to the cabin for a couple of days. As he was packing his fishing gear and clothes in the car, she was giving me advice: “Ben loves pizza. He doesn’t eat…blah…blah…blah.”

I tuned her out. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll get by,” I told her as we pulled out of the driveway.

Ben was a growing boy who wanted to fish trout. We walked a mile through the woods, waded the river two or three times, caught lots of fish, drank the celebratory root beer and Leinenkugel while sitting on rocks, then walked out and drove thirty miles back to the cabin after a long day along a beautiful river.

I cooked what I liked, and we devoured it all. Once or twice, Ben asked, “What’s this?” as he replenished the calories spent pushing through ferns and standing in rushing water. I don’t remember if he told me he liked the food, but he ate it with seconds.

Recently I served Jerri fried parsnips. My sisters in Hayward confirmed that my memory of how Mom made fried parsnips was right. She just peeled and parboiled them, floured the slices seasoned with salt and pepper and fried them until they were golden brown.

Here is how to make two servings of your own fried parsnips.


4 or 5 parsnips (each about 5 to 7 inches long)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 or 3 T vegetable oil


Peel the parsnips, cut them lengthwise into slices about a quarter inch thick. Some of the slices from the edges will be thinner, but don’t worry about it.

Put the slices into a saucepan and cover them with water. Add a dash of salt and bring them to a boil. Simmer the parsnips for five to seven minutes until they are just fork tender, “not,” as my sister said, “until they get mushy.”

While the parsnips are cooking, mix a scant half teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper with the flour. You can stir it together on a plate or shake it up in a bag. Cover the bottom of a skillet with oil and set the pan over moderate heat.

Drain and flour the slices and fry them until they are light brown. Turn them often to keep them from burning. If you have too many slices to fit in a single layer in your skillet, fry them in batches, adding a little oil if necessary. Remove the slices from the pan, drain them on a paper towel and serve them warm.

NOTES: Though she had never tasted fried parsnips before, Jerri liked them. I had, however, delayed dinner an hour.

Posted in Side dishes, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Turkey Wild Rice Soup

A long, long time ago, shortly after cooking pots came into use, a man was sitting in front of his cave watching his mate boil bones to flavor the seeds she planned to cook for the evening meal.

As the water boiled she turned a piece of meat on a stick over the fire.

“Woman,” said he, “why don’t you put some of that meat into the water? We can’t eat bones, and that old goat you’re roasting is so tough I can hardly chew it.”

Since she was a good mate, she chopped a piece of the meat off the roast and tossed it into the pot. Years later she would tell her grandchildren how she had invented soup, interrupted of course by the old man who claimed the credit.

“I told her to add the meat. She put in the roots and greens later, but she was just trying to make something fancy to impress the folks in the cave down the ledge.”

“It was because the hunting was poor, you old coot,” she would reply, and the children would laugh.

The argument about who invented soup is still going on. There are even food writers who claim that the invention of soup was “inevitable.” People who say this would probably not claim that cell phones were inevitable. The only difference between the invention of the cell phone and the invention of soup is that soup was invented about twenty thousand years ago while some of us can remember a time when there were no little phones that make strange noises in the theater or church.

Someone has to apply his or her intelligence to solve a problem or see something that does not yet exist. The man at the fire in front of the the cave wanted tender meat and his mate wanted to cook other edibles at the same time, so soup came into existence. The person who imagined a cell phone was probably a wife who wanted to remind her husband not to forget the bread and milk or a husband wishing he could apologize in advance for being late for dinner.

Soup might have been invented by different people at different times around the world, or the invention may have spread from some remote cave in China where 20,000 year-old cooking pots have been discovered. Today, however, virtually everyone enjoys soup, and you can find dozens of soup cookbooks.

I love a good soup and enjoy reading cookbooks. While not thought of as a cookbook, the plot of Stone Soup, by Marcia Brown, is really a recipe for a pretty good soup. The story is based on a folk tale about three hungry soldiers who get some selfish villagers to supply the food for a pot of delicious soup. I was fascinated by how easy it sounded to make soup.

Marcia Brown, the author of Stone Soup, published another “cookbook” called Skipper John’s Cook, which you can read online complete with the illustrations by clicking HERE. It is a book with a good lesson for anyone who wants to succeed as a cook.

Since we were in leftover turkey time, like Skipper John I was looking for interesting ways to vary the menu but use up the turkey before Christmas arrived. Jerri suggested using some in a wild rice soup. I liked the idea and here is how to make your own turkey wild rice soup.


1 cup uncooked wild rice
3 cups water
3 T butter
1 T vegetable oil
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1/8 tsp. powdered garlic
1/4 tsp. white pepper
5 T all-purpose flour
4 cups turkey or chicken broth
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. instant or 2 cubes chicken bouillon
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups chopped leftover turkey
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh parsley for garnish


Rinse the wild rice in cold water, drain it well and put it in a covered saucepan with three cups of cold water. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer covered for an hour. Stir occasionally and add more water if necessary. When the rice is done remove the pan from the heat and leave it covered to cool.

While the rice is cooking, clean and slice the mushrooms and clean and chop the onion, carrots and celery into a quarter to half-inch dice. Chop the turkey into bite-sized pieces and clean and coarsely chop some parsley for a garnish.

Melt three tablespoons of butter in a Dutch oven or soup pot over moderate heat. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and sauté the mushrooms for about two minutes. Add the onions and cook them until they begin to soften. Then mix the carrots and celery with the mushrooms and onions and season the mixture with the powdered garlic and white pepper.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir continuously for two minutes to cook the flour. Add the broth and stir until you have a smooth liquid. Add the salt and two teaspoons of instant or two cubes of chicken bouillon. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for twenty minutes to cook the vegetables. Stir occasionally.

Drain the rice and stir it into the soup, then stir in a cup of cream and the turkey. Grind a little black pepper on the soup. Bring the soup nearly to a simmer, taste and adjust the seasoning. If necessary, thin it with a little cream.

NOTES: When I first made this soup, my chief taster, proofreader and editor judged it “not as good” as some she had eaten. It needed more salt and turkey, and a more velvety texture. One mistake I made was using half and half rather than cream in my first attempt. Be warned. If diners want to reduce their consumption of butterfat, serve them a small bowl of soup and a large one of salad.

If you serve it like we do, here is what they will see.

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Jerri’s Banana Pudding

When I brought home a large bag of bananas, Jerri sent me off with a disapproving look and orders to buy a package of vanilla wafers. She was going to make banana pudding. I can endure a few scowls if I know that banana pudding will be on the menu, so it was with a light heart that I ventured out into the cold.

I felt like I did when Mom sent me out to fill the woodbox or shovel the path to the chicken coop when she was making vanilla pudding with vanilla wafers and bananas next to her on the counter. Work it might be, but my reward was being put together in the kitchen. Not only did her banana pudding taste wonderful, it looked beautiful.

Jerri’s does too. Here is a photo of the one Jerri made for me because I was thoughtful enough to bring home some extra bananas. To be honest, she admitted that she had been thinking it was about time for another banana pudding.


1 1/2 cups sugar
4 T cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
4 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
4 T butter
2 tsp. vanilla
4 – 5 ripe medium bananas
1 package of vanilla wafers


Break two large eggs into a one quart bowl and allow them to come to room temperature while you cook the pudding.

Mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt together in a three-quart saucepan. Stir the milk into the dry ingredients gradually and put the pan over medium heat. Stir frequently while the mixture comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and stir continuously when the pudding starts to thicken. Cook the pudding until it is thick and starts to bubble. Cook another two or three minutes over very low heat to make sure that the cornstarch is cooked. Remove the pan from the heat.

Beat the eggs until they are lemon colored and use a small measuring cup to dribble about a half cup of hot pudding into the eggs while beating vigorously. Whisk this egg mixture gradually into the pudding while bringing it back to a simmer over low heat. Cook for another two minutes, stirring the pudding constantly.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the butter and vanilla and stir until everything is blended together. Cover and begin to assemble your banana pudding.

Layer the bottom of a two or two and a half-quart soufflé dish with vanilla wafers. If you wish, you can break a few wafers into pieces to fill in the spaces between the cookies, but it is not necessary.

Next, put a layer of sliced bananas over the wafers. Spoon a generous layer of hot pudding over the first two layers. Repeat until you are almost to the top of your soufflé dish, ending up with a layer of pudding.

Line the inside of the soufflé dish by pushing wafers into the pudding. Finish by crushing three or four wafers and sprinkling the crumbs over the pudding. If you want to be artistic, do like Jerri does and put a wafer in the center. Allow the pudding to cool for fifteen minutes, then put it in the refrigerator and serve it well chilled.

NOTES: If you make the pudding in a two quart dish, you will have some vanilla pudding left over. This is a very good thing, since it makes a nice simple dessert or snack that is delicious by itself or with fresh or canned fruit.

You can use low fat or skim milk to make this pudding, but the texture and flavor will suffer. Replacing part of the milk with a quarter cup of cream or a half cup of half and half will improve the result. If you are very concerned about eating too much butterfat, take a smaller serving of the pudding.

Like my mother, Jerri makes her own vanilla pudding. There are mixes of course, but don’t try to make this dessert with instant pudding. The hot pudding reacts with the fresh bananas and vanilla wafers to create a marvelous flavor that you will never get with that instant stuff.

Plus, have you looked at the ingredients added to make instant pudding thicken? When I encounter banana pudding made with mixes, covered with whipped topping and who knows what else, I always think of some lines from a song by Tom Lehrer.

In “It Makes a Fellow Proud To Be a Soldier, ” he tells of his old mess sergeant whose “taste buds had been shot off in the war.” The unfortunate sergeant’s cooking reminded him “of all the marvelous ways they’re using plastics nowadays.” As with all satire, there is truth in the humor.

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Corn and Cheese Chowder

Chowders are basically thickened soups. They are similar to stews but often are thickened with cream, biscuits or crackers. This recipe uses cream and flour to thicken the broth, but the addition of corn and cheese puts it definitely in the chowder category.

Jerri found the original recipe about eight years ago on the web. It was pretty good but too bland for our taste. We increased the bacon, cheese and spices and ended up with a better bowl of chowder than what we had the first time we made it.

It’s inexpensive, easy to make and a good main dish for a warm and nourishing dinner on a cold winter evening. Give it a try.


5 slices bacon
1 large onion (3 1/2 – 4 inches in diameter)
1 T butter
2 tsp. cumin
3 T all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. white pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1 large potato
10 – 12 oz. package frozen whole kernel corn
1/2 cup whipping cream?2 1/2 – 3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste


Peel the potato and chop it into a quarter inch dice. and cut the bacon into half inch pieces.

Fry the bacon in a four quart saucepan or Dutch oven over moderate heat until it is browned and slightly crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and set it aside on a paper towel on a small plate.

While the bacon is cooking, clean the onion and chop it into a quarter inch dice.

Add a tablespoon of butter to the bacon fat. Cook the chopped onion in the fat for a minute or so, then stir in the cumin. Add the flour and white pepper and cook for one to two minutes to make a roux.

Whisk the chicken broth into the onions and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the potatoes, bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes for eight to nine minutes, then stir in the cream and corn.

While the chowder is coming back to a simmer, grate the cheese. Stir in the grated cheese and hot sauce and heat until the chowder is steaming. Stir in two or three grinds of black pepper, taste and adjust the seasoning.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with some crisp bacon. Serve with a salad and a good bread.

NOTE: If you don’t have any chicken broth in your pantry, you can substitute bouillon cubes and water. Start with three cubes of bouillon and four cups of water. Add another cube or a teaspoon of instant bouillon if you need more salt.

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Jerri’s Green Bean Casserole

Three or four years before a team of home economists at the Campbell Soup Company published the recipe for green bean casserole, one of Jerri’s cousins served it on Thanksgiving in Moundridge, Kansas. Jerri is sure of the chronology for two reasons: She was not yet in high school, and she loved that casserole.

Jerri’s comment when I asked for her green bean casserole recipe probably explains how a Kansas cook beat a team of professionals. “Everybody knows how to make green bean casserole. There’s nothing special about it.”

Since Campbell Cream of Mushroom Soup had been around since 1934 and home canning of vegetables for at least fifty years before that, chances are good that inventive housewives from Kansas to Wisconsin had discovered that cream of mushroom soup turned ordinary green beans into something special shortly after they brought the first cans of the soup home from the store. I know that my mother made green bean casseroles when I was a kid, but I can’t say when they first appeared on the Rang table.

Today, you will find literally hundreds of recipes for green bean casserole on the Web. There are many variations ranging from very simple (Stir the soup and beans together and heat.) to rather complicated instructions describing how to produce an aristocratic version of a plebeian dish. (Sauté the mushrooms….toss the shallot rings….etc.)

Some call for panko crumbs and others top the casserole with Ritz crackers. Still others include extra ingredients such as garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, cheese or bacon. And some even replace the cream of mushroom soup with a white sauce and exotic mushrooms. But in spite of the substitutions or added ingredients, they are all varieties of the two kinds of green bean casserole.

One kind is made with cut beans, the other with French cut beans. Cut beans are whole beans cut crosswise into pieces. French cut beans are cut into long strips. When my mother canned beans, they were cut beans, but when she made a green bean casserole she bought French cut beans for it. So does Jerri.

I have eaten both varieties, and in my opinion green bean casseroles made with French cut beans are far superior to those made with cut beans. You may prefer the cut bean variety, which is just fine. As a wise man wrote long ago, “De gustibus non est disputandum” which is Latin for “Don’t argue about matters of taste.”

Familiarity may breed contempt in some cases, but when it comes to green bean casserole, familiarity for me nurtures a love for that mixture of finely cut beans and creamy soup with plenty of mushrooms. Like my mother, Jerri adds mushrooms to her green bean casserole My father did not approve, but he was outvoted by the rest of us, and it was Mom who ruled the kitchen.

Here is Jerri’s (and my Mom’s) recipe, simple but delicious. If you already love the one you make, don’t try this one. However, you may be one of the few people who has never made a green bean casserole. Or perhaps you make it only because family members expect one at Thanksgiving or Christmas. If either sentence describes your situation, give this recipe a try.


3 cans French cut green beans
2 cans Campbell Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 four oz. can mushroom stems and pieces
1 cup French fried onions, divided


Preheat the oven to about 325º.

Drain the beans and mushrooms well and put them in a mixing bowl. Stir in the mushroom soup. Then fold in a half cup of French fried onions. Microwave until the mixture is hot. Sprinkle the remaining French fried onions on top and bake ten minutes in the oven before serving.

NOTES: Jerri microwaves the casserole because we don’t have room for it in the oven along with the turkey. If you have a larger oven or two ovens, you can just pop the casserole in the oven and remember to sprinkle the French fried onions on top during the last ten minutes while it is heating.

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Banana Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

Will I never learn? Bags of bananas on sale. I was supposed to buy two bananas. Instead I came home with four pounds of the yellow fruit.

“What am I supposed to do with all those bananas?” asked Jerri.

“I’ll bake some banana oatmeal cookies to help,” I said. “And I could make a banana milk shake.”

“You can also walk to the store and get me a box of vanilla wafers,” she told me.

After Jerri made her banana pudding dessert, I used three bananas to make some really addictive cookies. If you like soft cookies that aren’t too sweet but have a lot of flavor, you should put this recipe in your recipe box.


1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter
1 large egg
3 ripe medium bananas
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup plus 2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup plus 2 T old fashioned oatmeal
1 cup raisins


Preheat the oven to 400º and lightly grease a cookie sheet.

Using a wooden spoon and a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and shortening with the sugar. Beat the egg into the sugar and shortening. Peel and mash three bananas. Beat the bananas and vanilla into the sugar mixture until you have a smooth batter. If there are a few small chunks of banana in the batter, ignore them.

Mix the flour, salt, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, oatmeal and raisins together in a small bowl and blend the dry ingredients into the banana batter. If necessary, you can add a teaspoon or two of milk or half and half if there is not enough liquid to moisten all the dry ingredients.

Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls about two inches apart on the cookie sheet and bake on a center shelf for ten to twelve minutes until the cookies are lightly browned.

NOTES: Bananas vary in size and moisture content. You should have a stiff batter. You can add a little more flour and oatmeal if the batter seems too thin. This recipe makes about three dozen cookies.

Incidentally, though it certainly wasn’t a conscious decision, maybe I bought that bag of bananas to motivate Jerri to make her banana pudding. It’s just like Mom used to make, and we hadn’t had it in three or four years. I will post her recipe in a week or so.

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Assi’s Fish Soup

A few week’s ago we finally visited Assi and her family in Helsinki, Finland. Assi was a Rotary Exchange Student in 1994 when I was the District Exchange Officer for Finland. Today she and her husband, Pekka, have a two-year-old daughter named Jenna. They work for Tieto, one of the largest IT services companies in Europe, which is headquartered a few miles from their home.

Knowing that I like to eat, Assi made a point of introducing us to Finnish cuisine. She served us Karelian stew, which she had prepared the day we arrived, and introduced me to 8% beer at the Suomenlinna, the fortress built on six islands at the mouth of the South Harbor in Helsinki. After our tour of the fortress we met Assi’s parents at the Fish Market where we enjoyed a delicious salmon soup.

Like many midwesterners I had a bias against fish soup. I don’t really know why, since I like clam and seafood chowders, which are really just thickened soups. Maybe it was my father’s story about working one day at a neighboring farm where they had fish soup for dinner. “They were Swedes, and they ate stuff like that,” he told me, adding that there were fish heads in the soup pot. It would be an understatement to say that it was “not his favorite.”

Assi and her parents told us that the salmon soup at the market was delicious, and so we all had styrofoam bowls filled with a rich soup. We ate it while sitting under a canopy and watched the ferries, fishmongers and their customers along the pier. It was a wonderful lunch, and I asked Assi later if she had a recipe for salmon soup.

She emailed me her family’s recipe for fish soup, which I converted to English measurements. Here is Assi’s introduction to the recipe:

“I will share our family recipe of a fish soup. You can use any kind of fish, also leave out cream as we quite often do when eating this at home.”

When I asked what kind of fish she used, she said that they used whatever they caught including pike (walleye), northern pike and bass from any of the freshwater lakes in southern Finland plus saltwater fish that they caught from the Baltic. I used some pieces of bony bass saved from one of Jerri’s catches from this summer plus a half pound of wild salmon fillets.


2 or 3 medium potatoes
1 medium onion
2 1/2 cups water
4 – 8 whole allspice
4 – 8 black peppercorns
1 lb. fish (fillet or with bones)
1 scant cup of whipping cream
1/2 tsp. salt
3 T fresh dill
Butter to taste


Following Assi’s instructions, I first brought the bony pieces of bass to a boil in about two and a half cups of water in a covered saucepan and simmered them slowly for about twenty-five minutes. If you don’t have any bony pieces of fish, use fish stock and water. We didn’t have a pound of fish with the bony pieces, so I used two small salmon fillets to bring the amount of meat to a pound.

While the bony fish is simmering, peel the potatoes and clean the onion. Chop the potato into bite-sized pieces and the onion into a quarter inch dice. Cut the fish fillets into half or three-quarter-inch pieces. Set these chopped ingredients aside.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the pieces of fish from the water and let them cool on a plate for a few minutes. Separate the meat from the bones and set it aside in a small bowl. Be careful to remove all the small bones. Strain the water through a colander lined with cloth and return it to the saucepan.

Put the chopped ingredients and the meat you removed from the bones into the liquid. Add a half teaspoon of salt, the allspice and peppercorns. Cover the pan and bring the soup to a low simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender.

Mince the dill while the soup is simmering and stir it with the cream into the soup. Heat it until it begins to steam. Taste and adjust the seasoning. I like to add a grind of black pepper at this point.

Serve in bowls with a dusting of fresh dill and a pat of butter melting on top.

NOTES: When I asked Assi to look over the recipe a few days ago, she said that they never count the allspice; they use what they think they need for the batch of soup.

Then she wrote, “Also black pepper corns can be used. Sometimes I use just black pepper from my pepper mill because it is close at hand. As you can see, we make the recipe while cooking. :-) ” I like the smiley face. Think of it as a reminder that you can adjust the seasoning before serving.

If you don’t have any bony fish to make the stock, you could use Fish Stock Cubes or canned fish stock.

And finally, here is a photo of the bass that provided the bony pieces for my first batch of fish soup. Jerri caught all of them. I was skunked, but I was handling the canoe.

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Easy Glazed Pork Steak

When I find something on sale at the supermarket, I am tempted. A couple of weeks ago, the meat manager had put some packages of pork steak into the discount bin. I brought a package home, found a recipe for boneless pork chops that looked pretty good and adapted it to turn some inexpensive meat into a delicious dinner.

You can put these pork steaks on the table complete in less than twenty minutes if you don’t dawdle. And if you start the pasta water when you walk into the kitchen, you can have the complete meal on the table in a half hour.


1 1/2 lbs. pork steaks, at least 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. powdered garlic
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 T vegetable oil or shortening
1 T maple syrup (optional)


Using a fork, mix the sugar and spices together in a small bowl. Cut the pork steaks into serving-size pieces and put them on a platter. Spread half the sugar and spice mixture over upper side of the steaks and rub it into the meat. Turn the steaks over and repeat the procedure. Let the steaks rest a few minutes while you warm the frying pan.

Coat a non-stick frying pan with about two tablespoons of oil or shortening and heat it over high heat until the oil is very hot. Put the steaks in the pan, scraping any juices and spice mixture from the platter onto the steaks. Fry them for about three minutes, then turn the steaks over and fry them another three minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and cook the steaks another three or four minutes on each side.

If you wish, drizzle a tablespoon of maple syrup over the steaks when they are nearly done and turn them a final time to complete the glaze.

Pasta with vegetables goes very well with these steaks, but you may prefer rice or potatoes.

NOTES: If you are one of those people like me who counts carbs, you should experiment with making your own glazes for meat. This recipe, for instance, has fewer than sixty-two grams of carbohydrates. Since it makes four servings, each serving has only about sixteen grams of carbohydrates. Contrast that with one of my favorite “eating-out dinners,” General Tso chicken, which alone has sixty-four grams of carbohydrates.

If you think that dieting means to follow the advice of a doctor who supposedly said, “If it tastes good, spit it out,” these glazed pork steaks will change your mind. Just don’t eat more than one.

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