Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cooking and Cracker Jack

Today's interview was with John Donahue, writer for The New Yorker editor of "A MAN WITH A PAN: CULINARY ADVENTURES OF FATHERS WHO COOK FOR THEIR FAMILIES". John does most of the cooking for his wife and two daughters. He's always had a passion for food (because he loves to eat!) and his interest grew right after his daughter was born. It seemed he was spending more time in the kitchen and now he does the cooking, the prep, the menu and grocery planning and really enjoys all of aspects of cooking for his family. His book features 34 men; their favorite recipes as well as their stories, adventures and advice.

The book is not just about food; but about our changing families and lifestyles. It is also delicious entertainment for the "kitchen stool cook" as well as being an invaluable resource for new and seasoned home chefs.

Did you know that it was on this day in 1983 when "Cracker Jack" was first introduced at the Chicago World's Fair? Frederick Rucekheim and his brother Louis sold it as "Candied Popcorn and Peanuts". After they figured out a way to keep it from sticking together (a carefully guarded secret), they renamed their product after one sampler exclaimed, "That's crackerjack!", -which at the time was a colloquialism meaning "of excellent quality".

They got free publicity after the song "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was released in 1908 and beginning in 1912, a prize was included in every box.

Do you remember the prizes? Animals, toys, puzzles... The ones I always hoped to find were the circus wagons with a different animal in each one. I would line them up in my bedroom. Wonder whatever happened to my collection? Wonder if it would be worth anything today? I did look on line and found out that some Cracker Jack prizes are valued at more than $7000 today! Don't look for any prizes in Cracker Jack today-now you just get a paper prize with either a riddle or joke.

Some people think "Cracker Jack" was the very first junk food. What do you think? And what was your favorite Cracker Jack prize?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pyramids and Playing Games

How would you rate your vocabulary? Good? Great? Stupendous?
I thought mine was pretty good. I usually do well on the Reader's Digest words/vocab page but I found out differently after reading "THE WORD PYRAMID".

Marissa Hirsch, a 2011 graduate of Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Liconshire, Illinois got the idea for this book when she was in middle school, worked on the book for about a year and published it when she was 16. Marissa believes that just like the old adage "you are what you eat" it is also true that "you are what you speak".

If your communications skills and vocabulary are exemplary, you'll go farther in life. Her book is a handy little guide destined to help enrich your vocabulary and utilize the expressive power of the English language. She's grouped the pyramids into three categories: Body, Mind and World and has rated each one. Level "F" is the most common, least effect form and Level "A" is the highest level. For example: the pyramid she showcases is Clothing. The most common word is clothing (grade F), dress (grade E), fashion (grade D), outerwear (grade C), tabby (grade B) and toggery, habiliments and tatterdemalion (all grade A).

It's a fun little book, and also one that you can use to impress and influence others and to "provoke a battalogical epiphany, inducing a metamorphosis in your personal liguistic zetigiest"

We had great fun on the program today because it was "Recess at Work" day and the question I posed to my listeners was this: "What is your favorite childhood game". Either played at recess or during the long summer break.

Do you remember "Annie, Annie Over"? We used to play that with a softball, or sometimes our kickball. You called out the phrase, sent the ball over the roof of the garage and if it wasn't caught, one person from that side was "out".
Or how about "Red Rover", "Red Light/Green Light", "Kick the Can", "Captain May I?", "Miss and Switch", "Pom Pom Pullaway" and "Chalk the Rabbit"? We also got responses like "Hopscotch", "Kickball", "Four Square", "Tetherball" and "Crack the Whip".
One of our family favorites in summertime was "What Color is my Bird?" On a hot summer afternoon we'd assemble on the steps of our front porch. One person held the glass of water and spoon and thought of a color. He/She would go down the line, asking each of us if we knew the color of the bird they were thinking of. The person who guessed correctly would get one spoonful of water splashed on them (to help cool off during those hot sumer days). It was lots of fun, although sometimes we would get carried away and throw the full cup of water at someone. NOT a good idea-even if it was really warm!
We would also have marathon kickball games in the backyard. We'd gather all the neighbors, lay out the bases and boundaries in our backyard and play all day. We'd break for lunch and then come back at it again! Good Times that's for sure!
Do you have fond memories of games you used to play?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Comfort Food and Cleaning Tips

While the phrase evokes something different for everyone, one thing is certain: comfort food is not just the kind of food we eat; it is the kind of food we hunger for!
On today's show I had the chance to interview James Oseland, Editor-in-Chief of SAVEUR magazine, about the recently released cookbook, "SAVEUR-THE NEW COMFORT FOOD-HOME COOKING FROM AROUND THE WORLD".
When I think of comfort food the first thing that comes to mind is a great tasting homemade chicken pot pie! Yum! Or a S'more made at midnight in the microwave when my children were little, (because they'd had a bad dream, or couldn't sleep). Some people love a warm and gooey grilled cheese, a juicy hamburger, macaroni and cheese or Mom's homemade chicken soup. (Is your mouth watering yet?). The true definitioin of comfort food may be hard to pinpoint, but basically, it's any food that makes us feel good, right?
The book is filled with more than 200 stunning photographs, first person stories from some of the magazine's most acclaimed writers as well as information about the ingredients, techniques and memories associated with the recipes.
The unique feature is the fact the SAVEUR broadens the definition of "comfort food" because it showcases over 100 authentic home-style recipes from around the world and covers everything from appetizers to drinks.
This is an EXCELLENT book and one that you will "Savor"!

Spring is almost here and gone...have you done your "spring cleaning" yet?
We talked about cleaning tips and how you can clean like a professional. Here are few key things to remember:

  • Start in the room that is the farthest from the front door (usually the bedroom

  • Start your cleaning at the right of the door frame and always work top to bottom; left to right

  • Finish by vacuuming or mopping the floor as you make your way out the door

  • Apply cleaning solution to the tub/shower area before you continue with the top/bottom; left/right system. Wipe the tub/shower last.

  • The kitchen should be your last stop. Begin to the right of the stove since that is usually the messiest area in the room.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Money and Mishaps

Today I spoke with Karen McCall, author of 'FINANCIAL DISCOVERY-DEVELOPING A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH MONEY". Karen is the founder of The Financial Recovery Institute and has been working with many different individuals for over twenty years. She doesn't guarantee that the book will make you a millionaire-well it might, but she makes no promises! Many American have gotten used t living way above their means, maxing out credit cards and living the high life. Whether you are a young person just starting your career path, or someone who is already living on a tight budget, or even someone unaffected by the current economic crisis, we can all benefit from Karen's difficult life lessons and fninacial triumphs. Her book showcases stories of hope from all walks of life.
Karen says we need to look at our beliefs, our emotional connection with money and finances and the biggest mistake we make is when we are in a "state of denial"-a "money coma". This is a great book if you just need a little push in the right direction for controlling your finances or if you need help in a BIG way. You can check out more information at her website:

Today was "Kitchen Klutz's of America" day. We talked about various kitchen mishaps and I posed the question both on air and on "Facebook"- What is your most recent (or most memorable) kitchen mishap? I got a lot of great response from my listeners
-sirloin tips made with brown sugar
-eclair dessert made with farm fresh whole milk-tasted like soap suds
-caramel apple salad made with Cool Whip-Lite (to save calories) and it turned to "soup"
-made lasagna and forgot to add the noodles
-made a cherry pie when first married. seemed to take all day to prepare. when ready to put in oven, noticed that there was flour on bottom of pie plate. tried to wipe it off by raising it up over head and of course lost control and it fell to the floor!
-using salt instead of sugar when making sugar cookies
-using soap flakes instead of instant mashed potato flakes

I've had a number of mishaps...
A few of the most memorable:
-making chili for the very first time. I put everything in the crock pot (uncooked macaroni included!) When I went to check it a few hours later, the pasta had absorbed all the liquid and it was one big bowl of "mush"!

-making a broccoli slaw salad that I had gotten from my sister. I bought all the ingredients at the store, assembled it and took it to a family get together. My brother took one bite and hit a sunflower seed. I had used the kind that were in the shell-(didn't even know you could get the other kind!) and I hadn't bothered to remove the shells! We still laugh about this one.

What is your favorite kitchen mishap? Let me know....

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Book Nook Line up for this week:

Monday, May 23rd at 10:05am
Diane Kredensor, "OLLIE AND MOON", children's picture book author

Tuesday, May 24th, at 10:05am
Harold Holzer, "LINCOLN ON WAR: OUR GREATEST COMMANDER IN CHIEF SPEAKS TO AMERICA", a collection of Abraham Lincoln's speeches, letters and writings from the famous to the obscure and what we can learn from them

Wednesday, May 25th, at 10:05am
James B. Stewart, 'TANGLED WEB: HOW FALSE STATEMENTS ARE UNDERMINING AMERICA, FROM MARTHA STEWART TO BERNIE MADOFF", explores the lying addiction of the rich and famous.

Thursday, May 26th, at 10:05am
Fred Alan Wolf, "TIME LOOPS AND SPACE TWISTS: HOW GOD CREATED THE UNIVERSE". The author explores how consciousness and science are related.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Advocates and Asparagus

Thirteen years ago, Brian Monaghan was given a death sentence-his doctor had found two brain tumors and he was given 3-6 months to live. While he was battling cancer, his wife Gerri was fighting on his behalf; acting as his advocate and ensuring that he received the best possible care. Together they beat the odds. Brian and Gerri share their experience and offer a road map for navigating the medical system in "WHEN A LOVED ONE FALLS ILL: HOW TO BE AN EFFECTIVE PATIENT ADVOCATE" and I talked with them on Tuesday.

Their story is an incredible and powerful one and took me back twenty-five years ago when my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. She was not quite three years old and I became her advocate and ally. Many of the "50 Tips" that Brian and Gerri share were things that I did as well.

  • Trusting your own intuition. (I knew something wasn't right when I saw all the bruising on her legs)

  • Carrying a notebook, asking questions and writing things down. (There were many different chemos, plus I had to learn to draw blood from her catheter for testing at our local path lab so I needed to know what the results meant).

  • Make memories and share stories (We took a trip to Disney World during the middle of her treatment. Grandpa, Grandma, aunts, uncles and siblings and had a once in a lifetime experience!)

  • Always think in terms of "we". (I didn't receive the chomo, the "pokes", the radiation-but I felt that we were fighting this battle together!).

  • Celebrate the milestones. (We did that this past January when my daughter hosted a twenty-five anniversary celebration for doctors, nurses, friends and family who supported during the tumultuous time.

This book is an incredible tale of survival, love and committment and is a "must read" for everyone facing tough medical challenges.

It seems like spring as been a long time coming. One of the best "flavors" of spring is fresh asparagus. We've been sharing recipes for asparagus soup, quiche and more... When freezing asparagus remember these tips:

  • Select young tender spears with tightly closed tips

  • Wash thoroughly and sort by size

  • Trim stalks be removing the scales with a sharp knife

  • Cut into even lenghts to fit into freezer containers.

  • Blanch small spears for 1 1/2 minutes; medium spears for 2 minutes; and large spears for 3 minutes. Cool and drain well.

  • Pack spears into freezer containers and freeze. Or for smaller amounts, freeze on cookie sheets prior to placing in containers

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rhubarb and Rodgers

On Monday my "Book Nook" guest was Rob Reischel, sports writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. We talked about his newest book, "AARON RODGERS: LEADER OF THE PACK". Rob was planning on writing a book about the 2010 Packer Season and he'll be the first to admit that he didn't think they had a chance of getting to the Superbowl. After clinching the NFC title in Chicago, Rob's publisher told him they wanted the book to be about Aaron and that he had until one week after the SuperBowl to complete it. Talk about a deadline!

The book covers Aaron's early career is filled with stats and covers some little known information as well. For instance-when Aaron went to Butte Community College he asked to wear #12 (which was his high school number), but it was take. He then asked for #8 (the number of his boyhood hero-Steve Young), but it was also taken. He then asked for #4 because he loved how Brett Favre played. Little did he know that a few years later, he would be back-up the Favre. There are TONS of photos and it makes a great gift for any Packer fan, Aaron Rodgers follower or CHEESEHEAD.

I really hope the lock-out issue will be resolved before the beginning of the 2011 season. We want to be able to tout "WORLD CHAMPION GREEN BAY PACKERS" each and every week. GO PACK!

It's that time of year when the rhubarb is ripe and ready for picking! We've been talking about rhubarb and sharing recipes the last few days. If you don't have a patch in your backyard or garden, you can pick some up at your local grocery store-or at the nearest Farmer's Market.
Here are a few tips:
*Buy thinner, brightly colored stalks that are firm but not dried out at the ends.
*Cut the leaves off before cooking.
*Slice horizontally (against the grain)
* Add sugar (to taste) as the acidity is quite bracking.
*Try cooking down with ginger and star anise for complex but easy condiment.

You might want to try these jams:
Pineapple Rhubarb Jam
5 c. sliced rhubarb 3 c. sugar 3 oz. pkg. Strawberry JELL-O 1 medium can crushed pineapple Place rhubarb in saucepan. Stir in sugar and bring to boil. Boil for 15-20 minutes. During last few minutes of cooking, stir in pineapple. Remove from heat. Add JELL-O and stir until dissolved. Place into hot jars and seal.

Blueberry Rhubarb Jam
7- 1/2 c. rhubarb, cut up 2- 1/2 c. sugar 1 (16-20 oz.) can blueberry pie filling 2 small pkg. raspberry JELL-O Combine rhubarb, sugar & pie filling in saucepan. cook mixture until rhubarb gets soft. Stir in JELL-O until well dissolved. Pour mixture into glass jars and store in refrigerator. (Also freezes well).

Rhubarb Compote
2 1/2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1" pieces

1 lb. strawberries, quartered
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. apple juice
1 Tbsp. grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
In large heavy-bottomed pot, combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, apple juice and orange zest. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat and gently simmer, stirring occassionally, until rhubarb has broken down and mixture has thickened, 55-65 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled-on toast, pancakes, waffles or ice cream.