While judging last month's Christmas cookie contest at the 6th Annual Holiday Kick-Off Celebration: A Tribute to "A Christmas Story" in Hammond, a winning recipe for old fashioned chocolate chip cookies reminded me of a controversial photo with then First Lady Hillary Clinton that appeared via the Associated Press wire service two decades ago this month.
The reason I recall it, is because it really wasn't so controversial, and it had to do with plates of homemade chocolate chip cookies.
The photo in question from December 1993 featured President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary at the White House, with the President sitting on the couch munching on Hillary's famous "Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe" while the First Lady busily served trays of the cookies to reporters.
Our family Thankgiving had a tasty twist this year when we opted to forego traditional oven roasting method for our turkey in favor of trying out the deep-frying cooking method after recently acquiring a new indoor electric deep fryer created by Butterball Turkey.
Our 18-pound bird was fully cooked and ready to serve in an hour, and the result was one of the most juicy and delicious turkey feasts in recent years.
After writing about our intent to try this cooking option, I received plenty of advice from readers, including some who even own this same cooking unit from Butterball.
Our family is thankful for how quickly my dad has been on the mend after his total knee replacement surgery last week.
Tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, marks one week since my dad returned home to the farm to begin his rehab with his physical therapist Cole Casbon, while also still under the watchful eye and care of nurse Collene Miller, both with the Porter County Visiting Nurse Association. Miller, who hails from Kouts and was a 10-year 4-H club member, also happens to be the 1997 Porter County Fair Queen, who I interviewed for a front page story while covering her crowning ceremony.
For this year's Thanksgiving Day dinner, I'm joining my parents just down the road at my oldest brother Tom's home, nestled in the woods. He'll be helping his wife Linda with preparing the family feast.
Since the earliest days of summer, my dad has been combating a pesky left knee that hasn't wanted to cooperate with his busy and active lifestyle on our farm.
And for the many readers who have met my parents throughout the years at all of the luncheons and events I've hosted or participated in, it's easy to see I get all my energy and "get-up-and-go" from shared family traits and habits of the example set by my mom and dad.
Earlier this fall, my dad, 84, learned it was time for total knee replacement surgery. (He believes the reason it's only his left knee that wore out is because it happens to also be his "clutch knee" used from stepping on this pedal during his 40 years of driving trucks.)
It's great to be back from Las Vegas after covering this week's 46th annual Pillsbury Bake-Off.
After a weekend in the desert eating dessert in 75-degree daytime temps (52 degrees at night), I wasn't quite as enthusiastic about my parents' reports of snow at the farm.
This year was the first time the "Super Bowl of Baking and Cooking' has ever been held in Sin City. Past locations have been Hollywood, Dallas, Miami, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, Orlando and even Hawaii.
Apples have remained bountiful this season, with branches so laden with fruit at our farm, some of our trees' limbs have even cracked and dropped to the ground because of the weight.
With the help of my dad's peeling power with a paring knife, my mom has been busy for the past two months making everything from apple slices and pie to Aunt Ruby's recipe for warm apple crisp and Grandma Potempa's recipe for homemade, no-sugar-needed apple sauce, the latter made by cooking the unpeeled apples and pushing the soft fruit through a metal sieve to create a tasty, pretty pink result.
Last month, I was asked to return as a judge for the Sixth Annual Purdue University Calumet Intramural Baking Contest on campus in Hammond. For the five previous years, the contest has highlighted competitions for making cookies, cupcakes, brownies, pies and cakes.
Tomorrow is Halloween, so today is an ideal time to share some frighteningly good recipes.
I had some help with today's showcased creepy treats.
My friend Heather Cygan served as Times Food Editor for two years until she left in August 2006 to accept another position that would be closer to her home in Chicago.
Our agricultural claim-to-fame crops for our farm fields in Starke County are still based in lush fields of peppermint and spearmint, along with plenty of corn and soybeans.
But for this harvest year, some of the neighboring farm fields just down the road have showcased sprawling vines of a new, old crop of crisp green favorites: cucumbers.
Our farm family friends Larry and Debbie Wappel and their sons Larry Jr. and Eric dedicated a few of their sizable fields to growing cucumbers, which had incredible yields this year. The Wappel Family, whose home is just a couple fields away down our road, farm more than 7,000 acres.
When I woke up early at 6 a.m. Monday at the farm, a light coating of frost covered the shaded areas of the surrounding lawns and there was even a thin layer of ice on the birdbath.
The temperature readings this week on the yard thermometer are now starting to match the dates on the wall calender in the farm kitchen, as we've already reached the half-way point for the month of October.
It's a great time to showcase chili, using any final tomatoes and peppers from the gardens, for fall menus.
While teaching one of my classes last month at Valparaiso University, one of the professors in the College of Arts and Sciences brought in a large pot of homemade soup to share with colleagues.
I was especially intrigued by his traditional Spanish soup recipe, primarily, because of the tiny floating circles I noticed dancing on the broth base.
This was an ingredient I had never encountered before, but the soup's flavor and consistency were fantastic. After some investigation, I discovered this mystery ingredient was a type of natural pasta substitute called Quinoa, which is pronounced in Spanish as "Quin-wah."
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