A recipe that ensures lasting memories: good food, gracious friends

birthday meal, birthday celebration
Birthday celebration. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

Friends. Food. Memories. That’s a recipe to remember.

Some of my favorite memories come from sitting around a dinner table and sharing a meal with friends. With the passage of time, more often than not these are folks we seldom see on a regular basis for a multitude of reasons.

The excuses responsible for the separation are many and varied. A change of jobs, retirement, relocating, even a misunderstanding are just some of the possibilities.

Funny, isn’t it, how food enables meaningful conversation, neutralizes differences and bonds folks together. That’s true, of course, as long as I’m not cooking.

food and friends
Brunch with friends © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
Food flavors the conversational flow. Perhaps it’s the other way around. The intentionality of reconnecting is easier if food is the centerpiece.

The type of meal is insignificant. It could be at a fancy restaurant, or someone’s home or a relaxing picnic. The setting and type don’t necessarily dictate the buoyant demeanor that prevails. The results are the same.

My late father was notorious for instigating such gatherings. He called it the “annual Frith picnic.” Frith was my mother’s maiden name, and anyone directly and remotely connected to the Frith family of my mother and her two sisters was invited.

Grandma Frith, the mother of the three daughters, was always the queen of the feast. Us grandkids revered her. Her homemade pies had nothing to do with that of course.

Dad kept the reunion going as long as he could. We usually met at his company-owned park, along with hundreds of other employees and their families.

We played card games, softball, volleyball and miniature golf. Mostly though, we grouped in semi-circles or sat at picnic tables quizzing one another. As the grandkids grew, they began to have children of their own.

old friends
Marvin and Mary. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
Attendance and menu offerings expanded, and then lessened as family cells grew and spread across the country like the measles. I miss those get-togethers. I remember the intensity of the conversations though not the specifics. Shoot, I can’t remember what I had for lunch, and lunch was an hour ago.

I recall other smorgasbords as well.

I find sitting at the same table with people you once hired, shared offices, played on the same softball team or attended church with priceless. Between bites of seasoned casseroles and homemade desserts, we sit around like old grandparents and compare notes about our greatest blessings, our grandchildren. We do so because we are old grandparents, well most of us.

Stories long forgotten are retold as if they happened yesterday. We laugh to the point of tears. Quiet reflections often follow the expressive outpourings, sure signs that those times will never return nor be repeated. That may be for the best.

family and food
Family. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
If heads turn our way in public settings, they are accompanied by understanding smiles without knowing the context or details. The other patrons acknowledge the genuine fellowship with polite nods.

I especially love extended opportunities where the conversing spontaneously spills out long past the clearing of the supper table. Raucous rounds of dominoes or card games ensue. They are new memories freshly made.

I find it even more delicious if newcomers slide into the circle of friends. They ask clarifying questions that generate new information, more laughter, a rainbow of language, and new friends.

In such situations, I have learned another necessary ingredient that spices the relational recipe. Silent listening is the honey that sweetens the relationships and keeps me asking for seconds.

relaxing before the meal
Relaxing. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

No fooling about the waffle iron

hersheysbybrucestambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

When I came across an article about the many uses for a waffle iron, I had to read it. The story’s headline pulled me in: “5 Outrageously Good Items You Can Make in a Waffle Iron.”

Besides the obvious and traditionally the only reason to use a waffle iron, to make waffles, the article transformed the lowly gadget into a veritable utilitarian kitchen necessity. I suspicioned the author owned stock in a waffle iron manufacturing company, and was trying to persuade people to rush out and purchase one or two.

dadandmombybrucestambaugh
My late father and mother.
The first alternate to waffles on a waffle iron listed was everyone’s favorite, unless you happen to be vegan, toasted cheese sandwich. Next to the pancake, this has to be the world’s most universal food. If you use a waffle iron, it might even surpass the world-renowned flapjack.

Next on the list was an offering for people who either are indecisive or can’t wait for dinner. The author recommended a fried chicken waffle. I am not making this up. He called it “Chicken Stuffed Waffles.” Let’s just say that the directions weren’t as simple as making the two entrees individually. But syrup on fried chicken? I think I’ll pass.

I thought maybe the third recipe would be the charm. I was disappointed. “Cheesy Pasta” for the world’s mac and cheese fans was presented. Again, the confounding recipe resulted in a crispy crust with a gooey, cheesy center. Not for me.

The next one I might try, if my wife isn’t home and I can find a gluten free recipe. Heat up the waffle iron, plop down a lump of cookie dough, and close the griddle for a minute and a half. Presto, you’ve got a crunchy cookie.

lecturebybrucestambaugh
Dad was much more comfortable giving talks on Native American history than he was working in the kitchen.
Finally came a suggestion that really made sense. Though the author didn’t call it this, the result was a waffled omelette. Just preheat the waffle iron to medium-high heat, pour in your favorite egg scramble and two minutes later you’re good to go.

All this leads me to a simple warning. It came to me as soon as I saw the article’s enticing headline. Don’t do what my late father once did. It was kind of like the waffled toasted cheese sandwich, only worse.

Apparently, Dad was home alone shortly after he and Mom were married in 1942. Now my impetuous father knew less about cooking than me. But he was hungry, and what was a man to do without his wife around to fix food for him?

waffleironbybrucestambaugh
Dad’s partner in crime.
Dad got out their brand new waffle iron, and made, or at least attempted to make, his favorite gourmet sandwich. He had all the ingredients right there before him.

Dad put a slice of plain, white bread on each side of the waffle iron, without preheating it of course. On top of each slice he carefully placed half of a plain Hershey’s candy bar. You know, the flat one with multiple rectangles with the brand name Hershey’s molded into them.

Dad squeezed the two sides of the waffle iron together, and then turned it on. I’m not exactly sure what happened after that, but when Mom got home, the waffle iron was ruined. Her only choice was to throw it out.

I think Dad was really fortunate that Mom didn’t pitch him out, too. Instead their incredible marriage lasted 67 years, in part because Dad gave up grilled chocolate bar sandwiches, not just for Lent, but for good.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

A special Halloween pie, and it’s not pumpkin!

jackolanternapplepiebybrucestambaugh
A Jack-O-Lantern apple pie that my wife baked was absolutely delicious.

My wife, Neva, loves to cook, plain and simple. However, she likes to spice things up a little from time to time, and that doesn’t necessarily mean adding a lot of zing to the food she creates.

Neva baked up a special treat for the grandchildren while we were visiting them recently at their home in Harrisonburg, VA. Using her usual recipe, Neva made a wonderful apple pie especially for the Halloween holiday. She added a Halloween theme to it by cutting a Jack-O-Lantern face into the top crust. The revealed slices of apples added a spooky look to the delicious pie.

I thought you might like to have the recipe. The pie is too good not to share. Once you taste it, you’ll discover that this Halloween will be all treat and no trick.

Bruce Stambaugh

Neva’s Apple Pie

Ingredients:
4 large cooking apples, about 2 lbs., which equals 6 cups of sliced apples
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2/3 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of light brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tablespoons of flour
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
A dash of nutmeg
A dash of allspice or ground cloves
Pastry for a 2-crust, 9 inch pie
2 tablespoons of butter

Preparation:
Peel, quarter, and core apples. Cut into 1/4 inch slices to equal 6 cups. Toss with the lemon juice in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves. Pour over the apples and toss to coat the apples.

Place one pie pastry into a 9 inch tin or pan. Pour in the mixed ingredients, and place the second pie pastry over the top. Crimp the two crusts together, and cut out the Jack-O-Lantern face to suit.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.

Enjoy!

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

Whoopie pie and filling recipes

Whoopie pie recipe

2 eggs          1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup vegetable oil 8 tablespoons of cocoa
2 cups brown sugar 1 cup milk
3 cups flour 1 1/4 teaspoons of vanilla
1 teaspoon of baking soda

Mix eggs with vegetable oil and sugar until creamy, then add flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa.
Add vanilla and milk.
Drop on greased baking sheet with teaspoon.
Bake at 375 degrees F. about 7 minutes.
Let cool.
Add filling between two cookies.

Filling recipe

5 tablespoons of flour 1 cup of milk
1 cup of sugar 1 cup of shortening
1/2 teaspoon of salt 1 teaspoon of vanilla

Mix flour and milk, and cook until thick, then cool.
Mix other ingredients.
Add the two mixtures together and beat until fluffy.

Neva Stambaugh

Strawberry Shortcake Recipe*

strawberries and shortcake
Fresh strawberries ready for the fresh out of the oven shortcake.

Anytime I mention my wife’s good cooking, or in this case baking, I should automatically include the recipe. But you know how men are. However, having enjoyed yet another meal of the sweet, spongy cake, smothered with strawberries and moistened to taste with a little skim milk, I thought it best to post the recipe, with compliments to Neva and appropriate recognition to the late Doris Janzen Longacre, who compiled the More-with-Less Cookbook from whence the recipe originated. – Bruce Stambaugh

Carla’s Hot Milk Sponge Cake

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Beat two eggs in mixing bowl.
3. Add one cup of sugar and one teaspoon of vanilla and beat until light.
4. Combine separately one cup of flour, one teaspoon of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
5. Fold dry ingredients by hand into egg mixture.
6. Bring to boil in a small saucepan 1/2 cup of milk and one teaspoon of butter/margarine.
7. Add this mixture slowly into the batter, stirring gently.
8. Pour the batter into a well-greased and floured 7″ x 12″ or 9″ x 9″ cake pan.
9. Bake 30-35 minutes.

Strawberry Shortcake ready to eat
Strawberry shortcake ready to be eaten.

*More-with-Less Cookbook, Doris Janzen Longacre, Copyright 2000, Herald Press, Scottdale, PA, p. 282.

Morel mushroom recipe

By Bruce Stambaugh

Morel recipe

morel mushrooms
Morel mushrooms

Preparation
1. Find a mess of morels.
2. Rinse with water.
3. Slice the larger mushroom in half.
4. Place the mushrooms in a container of well-salted water.
5. Soak for 10 minutes.
6. Dump the water and rinse the mushrooms again.
7. Wrap the mushrooms in paper towels until ready to cook.

Cooking
1. Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron frying pan on medium heat until it’s hot.
2. Pour the mushrooms into the heated pan.
3. The remaining water in the mushrooms should immediately begin to sizzle.
4. Keep turning the mushrooms into their own moisture in the pan.
5. Once the moisture begins to dissipate, add either a dab of clarified or real butter or some extra virgin olive oil.
6. Add a pinch of sea salt.
7. Stir the mushrooms into the melting butter or olive oil.
8. Keep stirring until the mushrooms just begin to look wilted.
9. Turn off the heat.
10. Remove the mushrooms from the pan.
11. Enjoy.