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FROM the FARM: Easter salute to the rutabaga and Uncle Hank memories

FROM the FARM: Easter salute to the rutabaga and Uncle Hank memories

Reader Elaine Chenore of Merrillville called me last week to talk about the rhubarb patch in her yard.

During the conversation, she turned to the topic of one of her favorite root flavors: the rutabaga.

Chenore lamented to me how she believes the parsnip-like rutabaga is long overdue for some kitchen credit.

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FROM the FARM: Farm neighbor followed parents' gardening know-how

FROM the FARM: Farm neighbor followed parents' gardening know-how

I've often written about our farm neighbors from my youth, the Skuderna Family.

Bill and Marie Skuderna, whose farm fields border our farm fields, continued the same neighborly friendship that started with Bill's parents, who helped my Grandpa and Grandma Potempa when they first moved from Chicago as new immigrants to purchase our family farm.

Bill died at 70 on Aug. 3, 1990 and Marie followed on Nov. 30, 1997, at age 71. Their two sons, Donny and younger brother Charlie, were good friends with my two oldest siblings, Carol and Tom, while Donny's three daughters were my great friends, since Donny and his wife Linda built their home on their family farm property just down the road.

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FROM the FARM: Ready to start thinking about rhubarb recipes

FROM the FARM: Ready to start thinking about rhubarb recipes

After an early start to the week of sun and warm, proving our month of March 2014 "came in like a lion and went out like a lamb," it's back to cold and rainy to welcome April, which will hopefully "bring May's flowers."

And at our family farm, not only are there blooming bulb flower beds, but also plenty of asparagus and rhubarb.

Reader Stella Richardson of Valparaiso wrote me a letter last week with the following request: "Dear Phil: Some time ago, you ran a recipe for your mom Peggy's homemade Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie in your newspaper column. Along the way, I have lost my copy of the recipe. Will you please mail me a copy of it? Your mom's pie recipe was so good!, Thanks a lot! - Stella"

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FROM the FARM: Reader searching for Phyllis Diller's famed chili recipe

FROM the FARM: Reader searching for Phyllis Diller's famed chili recipe

Despite all of her onstage persona and jokes about her cooking and kitchen abilities, comedienne Phyllis Diller was a culinary wiz with a passion for dreaming up delicious recipes.

I still miss Phyllis, who we lost at age 95 in August 2012, a great and funny friend to so many. When I wrote and published my first "From the Farm" cookbook a decade ago in May 2004, Phyllis was the first to help me get the word out, by writing the foreword and a special chapter featuring some of her all-time favorite recipes.

Memories of my first cookbook prompted a recent letter I received from reader Jack Moody, who has been on the hunt for Phyllis' prized chili recipe.

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FROM the FARM: Time to gather recipes for Pillsbury Bake-Off

FROM the FARM: Time to gather recipes for Pillsbury Bake-Off

The month of March is moving by fast and it's time for an important reminder from the folks at the Pillsbury Bake-Off.

"I want to introduce myself. My name is Sarah Larson, and I’m your contact for all things surrounding the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest," Sarah Larson alerted me last week, reminding me to get the word out to Times Readers.

"There are only two weeks left for entries in the Simply Sweet Treats and Savory Snacks & Sides categories. Considering you cover food and recipes, I thought this would be a perfect fit. The Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest is constantly churning out delicious, award-winning recipes."

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FROM the FARM: Annual Lupus Chilli Cook-Off closes with NWI Chapter

FROM the FARM: Annual Lupus Chilli Cook-Off closes with NWI Chapter

Back in February 2003, this weekly From the Farm recipe column had only been in existence for less than a year.

But Phyllis Simko, director of the Lupus Foundation of America, Northwest Indiana Chapter, was already a fan.

She asked me to be a "celebrity judge" at her organization's first Chili Cook-Off, held as a small charity event in at the Woodland Park Pavilion in Portage.

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FROM the FARM: Howard Johnson's Restaurant a favorite menu memory

FROM the FARM: Howard Johnson's Restaurant a favorite menu memory

While growing up in the 1970s, when we had a Friday off during our school spring break during Lent, my mom, joined by my dad's sister, our Auntie Lilly, would take me, along with my older sister Pam and brother David to Michigan City for new Easter Sunday clothes shopping at Marquette Mall.

And one of the favorite moments of the trip is when we'd spot the familiar, bright orange, steep A-frame roof of the Howard Johnson's Restaurant and Lodge along U.S. 421. Besides their famed selection of "28 ice cream flavors," the hotel and dining chain popularized affordable seafood menu items like clam chowder and Soffron Brothers Clam Company's fried clam "strips" billed as "the foot of hard-shelled sea clams."

And if we happened to be celebrating a birthday on the day of our dining, and informed the waitress, we knew we'd have "free" tiny and very flat, round single layer birthday cake, loaded with icing, brought to our table. (These cakes always arrived barely thawed, since they must have come right from freezer storage and this was well before microwave ovens!)

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FROM the FARM: Chinese tea eggs offer flavor and international flair to menu

FROM the FARM: Chinese tea eggs offer flavor and international flair to menu
February 26, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Sunday brought to a close the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. The 17 days of competition, which cost Russia an astounding $51 billion investment, gave the world a chance to experience an international connection.

Up next, the Olympic Winter Games are held again in 2018 presented by the next host city, Pyeongchang in South Korea.

Today's below zero temperature readings are a reminder that this season's long winter has felt like its own Winter Olympics competition.

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FROM the FARM: Hope luncheon a success, along with cookie request

FROM the FARM: Hope luncheon a success, along with cookie request
February 19, 2014 12:00 am  • 

My thanks to the 300 readers who attended Sunday's sold-out 6th annual Valentine's Day luncheon at Teibel's restaurant saluting legendary Bob Hope and raising money for Honor Flight Chicago.

With your reader generosity, once again, more than $1,300 was raised to help a great cause from our enjoyable afternoon of great food, prizes and fun memories from yesteryear. Additionally, more than $500 was raised just during the combination "final course" "SPAM" sale, which was our can luncheon meat nod to the food staple so many veterans recall from the days of war rations.

Six lucky guests who donated money for a can of SPAM also went home with great donated prizes, including bottles of wine, a donated signed mystery novel from Kate Collins, an Albert's Diamond Jewelers Gift Card for $100 and reservations to Sunday champagne brunch and tickets to "Ring of Fire," the new stage musical about the life of Johnny Cash at Theatre at the Center in Munster. An extra special "thank you" to the generous folks at Sno Joe for donating their new electric snow blower to a lucky guest, and just in time for Monday's fresh blanket of white.

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FROM the FARM: Readers offer special Valentine's Day recipes

FROM the FARM: Readers offer special Valentine's Day recipes
February 12, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Valentine's Day is the time for special recipes.

But "special" doesn't have to mean complicated.

This week, readers have some easy and delicious recipes that are perfect for sharing for Valentine's Day on Friday.

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