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.)
Originally, his orthopedic surgeon in Valparaiso, Dr. Bruce Thoma suggested some other options, such as new advancements, including injections of "a rooster's comb" into the knee to replace the cushion between the bones which has worn away. During the past 12 years I've been writing this farm column, Oscar, our rooster from our farm has made more than a few appearances at my farm parties and cookbook signing events. But it's not likely he would have made a very worthy donor of the comb crown that topped his stubborn head.
So with the "greenlight" guidance of Dr. Hector Marchand, my dad's heart doctor, my dad opted for the two-hour total knee replacement surgery on Monday at the new Porter Health Care Systems hospital in Valparaiso. And just two hours following the procedure, my dad was already sitting up in bed and eating a lunch tray with a turkey sandwich, cream of potato soup and orange Jell-O. And by three hours later, his physical therapist already had him up walking around the room to the recliner chair to do leg exercises. Wow! Gone are the days of "hospital bed rest" following major surgery, and with good reason. Up and active encourages far better results. By Thursday, my dad will be released to go home to the farm to begin physical therapy with the Porter County Visiting Nurse Association. Prayers and blessings are powerful not only at Thanksgiving and the holidays, but every day of the year.
Like so many Times readers, we have had many friends who have had their own knee and hip replacements during the recent decades. As we all live longer and longer, sometimes "our parts" just wear out, as Dr. Thoma reminds.
Our wonderful family friend Irene Jakubowski of Valparaiso, had both of her knees replaced at the same time! And through it all, she always kept a smile on her face. While on the mend, Irene always said quick and easy hearty recipes were the best anytime when in a pinch for time. And even shortcuts in the kitchen, with ingredients already on hand in the cupboard or pantry can provide tasty, satisfying results for menus that please. Today's recipe is from Irene, who passed far too soon at age 85 in March 2008, and she would whip this flavorful easy main entree up for what she called a "quickie Sunday dinner." Irene is still smiling today, only now, with a wonderful view from above.
Irene's Well-Dressed Baked Chicken
4 to 6 chicken breasts (boneless preferred)
Dash of garlic powder
Dash of seasoning salt or Mrs. Dash
Sprinkling of black pepper
4 to 6 slices Swiss cheese
2 (10.75 ounce) cans of condensed soup of choice (cream of mushroom or chicken or celery)
1 1/2 cups milk
1 (6 ounce) box of dry stuffing mix
DIRECTIONS: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cooking spray to coat a 9-inch-by 13-inch baking pan or glass casserole dish of equivalent size. Rinse chicken breasts and sprinkle with dry seasonings and arrange on bottom of prepared pan. Cover the chicken breasts with Swiss cheese slices. In a bowl, combine soups together with milk and stir or whisk until smooth and pour over the arranged chicken breast spreading evenly to cover. Lastly, pour the dry stuffing mix over the soup layer and gently press with hands into the soup layer. Cover baking dish with foil and bake for 1 hour. Foil can be removed for the final 10 minutes of baking time if desired. Makes 4 to 6 servings.