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Cook's Corner

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Diana Parker | The Journal Gazette
Laurie McArdle serves up Italian Sausage and Peppers, one of her mother’s recipes.

Making meals from scratch, just like Mom

– When Laurie McArdle thinks back on her favorite recipes, they are the ones her mother served for the parties her parents threw in their Auburn home. Her father had an insurance company, Franklin National Life Insurance Co., and would entertain employees and family there.

“He believed in family big time. He liked to entertain in our home,” the Fort Wayne woman says of her father. “I remember the parties. Mom always cooked – never catered. I can understand why Dad was proud of her.”

Looking back on the fond memories, McArdle, 54, adds, “We had one woman – Betty Borden – play by ear, and she played these Christmas songs.”

Following her mother’s example, McArdle continued to serve meals made from scratch. Her husband, Dan, and children, Shannon, Molly, Matt and Tommy, always enjoyed such dishes as beef and noodles and mashed potatoes or chicken and noodles and mashed potatoes.

Even now, when the children come to visit, McArdle will serve something similar.

“If the kids come home, I put chicken and cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soups together with a little milk. Sometimes I’ll add a package of dry onion soup, mix it up and there’s the gravy,” she notes.

“And,” she adds with a laugh, “(Serve) with good old mashed potatoes.”

Q. What’s your favorite cookbook?

A. I’m really liking the “Taste of Home” (cookbooks). My dad gave me the “Better Homes and Gardens All-Time Favorite Recipes.” When Molly called from Colorado and wanted a recipe for apple pie, no cookbook (needed). I make those enough, I don’t need a recipe.

Q. What vegetable do you eat most often?

A. Broccoli. Golly, anymore it’s almost asparagus. I pour olive oil over it, add red pepper flakes and put it in a pan. Bake it at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

Q. What’s one thing people wouldn’t find in your refrigerator?

A. Probably soy milk or tofu. The thought of it can’t get past my brain.

Q. If you were stuck on a deserted island, what’s one food you would have to have?

A. Homemade spaghetti and meatballs. I do love my spaghetti. I’m pretty simple.

Q. What’s your favorite cooking utensil?

A. Probably the garlic press. I’m Italian (laughs). I think that’s synonymous with garlic.

Italian Sausage and Peppers

Dried parsley, as desired

Salt, as desired

Fresh ground pepper, as desired

3 to 5 pounds Italian sausage, in casing

5 peppers (any color), sliced

3 to 4 large onions, quartered

3 (28-unce) cans of crushed or diced tomatoes

6 cloves of garlic, minced

Sprinkle the bottom of two deep baking dishes with parsley. Add a little salt and fresh ground pepper evenly over the bottom of the dish. Place sausage on top of the parsley, salt and pepper. Then place the peppers and onions over the top of the sausage. Pour the crushed tomatoes all over the sausage, making sure it is all covered. Put garlic over the tomatoes, and repeat salt and pepper and parsley again over everything.

Cover with foil and bake in an oven at 375 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Take foil off and continue cooking for an additional 45 minutes or until the sausage is done. Drain any excess grease from the pan before serving. (If you opt to cut sausage into pieces before baking, there may be more grease in the end.) It may be served alone with bread or any type of pasta. Makes 6 to 8 servings per pan.

Heavenly Hash (Tapioca Dessert)

6 tablespoons pearl tapioca (not instant)

2 to 3 cups water

1 cup granulated sugar

1 (16-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

2 cups pineapple juice

1 1/2 cups Tokay grapes or seedless purple

1/2 pint whipping cream, whipped

Nuts, such as coarsely chopped pecans, if desired

Soak tapioca overnight in water to generously cover. Next morning, drain the tapioca and cook in double boiler until most all of tapioca appears transparent. In separate pan, cook sugar and pineapple juice until thickened; add to tapioca and cook again until thick. Stir often. Cool. Then add drained pineapple, grapes, whipped cream and nuts. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Crispy Cheese Wafers

2 1/2 sticks margarine

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 cups Wondra flour

1 teaspoon salt

Cayenne pepper, to taste

Dash of Tabasco sauce, or more, if desired

2 cups Rice Krispies cereal

Let margarine soften. Grate cheese and mix all ingredients except Rice Krispies thoroughly. Stir in Rice Krispies, form dough into small balls, pressing each ball with a fork dipped in water making a criss-cross pattern on wafer. Place wafers on ungreased baking sheet. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes. Makes 4 to 5 dozen.

Cook’s Corner is a weekly feature. If you know of someone to be profiled, write to Cook’s Corner, The Journal Gazette, P.O. Box 88, Fort Wayne, IN 46801-0088; fax 461-8648; or email dparker@jg.net.

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