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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
When a favorite clipped recipe gets lost or misplaced, it is frustrating.
I'm hoping Times readers might be able to help me out with today's readers' recipe requests.
The snowy, cold weather months are always a great time for sorting through kitchen recipe drawers and cookbook shelves. First up, if you can lend a helping hand locating the following cookie mix recipe request from Valparaiso reader Pat Glenn, please let me know.
When it's January, the start of the new year inspires many people to think of better health, exercise and diet habits.
Reader Doris Busse of Whiting called me to ask for a recommendation for "a healthy and great tasting blender smoothie drink."
I can understand Doris' eagerness for a satisfying something to sip to inspire thoughts of summer, warm weather and a return to outdoor activities that don't include a scarf, gloves and shovel.
Every year readers look forward to my annual Valentine's Day charity luncheon at Teibel's restaurant and the announcement of the year's theme.
My 6th Annual Valentine's Day Luncheon is from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16 and this year's theme is "Heartfelt Hope" featuring displays and a salute program to the legendary Bob Hope and his wonderful USO war efforts for more than six decades.
Included will be rare displays of items from his recent estate sale, photos collectibles.
Last week's weather warnings of the approach of cold weather and an impending winter storm sent shoppers to stores scrambling for grocery staples: bread, milk and eggs.
In the event of losing electricity during a storm, a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter become important rations.
But what we so often forget is how fortunate we are to be able to dash to the nearest store to buy today's grocery staples.
With this week's record breaking frigid temps dipping down to -14 below, any reason to turn on the oven to do some baking is a welcome way to add some extra warmth combined with a wonderful aroma to fill the home.
We've been busy making sure all of our squirrel corn feeders and also the bird feeders that surround the house are kept filled to assure even the animals have the energy they require to survive such bitter cold. My dad has even started to do a little snow shoveling on the surrounding sidewalks to test out his "new knee" after his total knee replacement surgery in mid-November.
My mother's rule this time of year is it's always nice to have a reason to turn on the oven for some winter baking.
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