Friday, December 18, 2015

Chapter 15- Are We Grown-Ups Now?

So in 1978, Diane started at the University of Chicago, pursuing an economics degree. I chose Michigan State, partly for its well-rated dietetics program, partly for scholarships I could get, and partly for the drinking age being 18! Ironically, shortly after I arrived, the drinking age was raised. But in a couple months I turned 19, allowing me to buy beer and wine in Illinois. Then the next year Illinois changed their law! No grandfather clauses, so I stocked up on wine.

My first year was spent in an all girl dorm, freshmen did not get to choose where they lived. It was better than I thought it would be and I made some good friends. And of course we were not isolated from boys, they were in our classes, at work and at parties. Toga parties were all the rage the first couple years. Most of my classes were not that hard, so I had a nice balance of study, work and fun.
my college yearbook photo

Sophomore year I applied to be in a rather unique dorm, Williams Hall. Structurally, it was like the other classic old brick dorms, but each floor had a kitchen and we could cook for ourselves instead of relying on meal plans. Luckily, a roommate accepted me and I got in. I wanted to try being vegetarian after reading Diet For A Small Planet. There was a small food co-op a few blocks away so I had no trouble getting the sorts of ingredients I needed. I successfully ate vegetarian for a whole year, making only a couple exceptions for family events. Though my floor mates obviously cooked too, I made a bit of an impression for being able to make souffles and birthday cakes. I don’t know where I got the spinach soufflĂ© recipe, but I still make it.

Williams Hall also housed the campus test kitchen. I first volunteered to be on the taste panel, then I got to work behind the scenes with the dietitians in the test kitchen. I still had hours in my old dorm’s cafeteria too; I learned some culinary tricks there, but more in the test kitchen of course, like how to fix a cheese sauce that had broken down, by beating in hot water a little at a time.

I enjoyed the classes in my major, so I thought I was on the right track. The science of nutrition and related courses were interesting, and the food lab classes were fun. I really enjoyed food science where we got to “torture” food items to see what happened. We even had a little guillotine to measure how tender the pastry was. Junior year I started dating a musician who lived in the same dorm. He was a non-traditional student and fascinating person, but later I realized he was an alcoholic, so though it lasted longer than some other relationships I had in college, I eventually had enough.

Diane got engaged to her long time boyfriend John in 1980, and planned the wedding for September 1981. I stayed in Michigan to work & take a summer course that year, but came home every so often. On one of these trips, we got busy looking at bridal magazines while making Swedish Tea Rings. Then we got inspired by some designs we saw and decided to check for them at the local bridal shop. We forgot we had tea rings in the oven already!  We had a great time shopping, but came home to blackened tea rings and angry parents. Swedish Tea Ring is a family specialty; my mother made it for many occasions, sometimes as a thank you gift. I carried on with it, and the bridal shopping incident was the only time I totally ruined it. Years later, I got a second place in the Minnesota State Fair for it, and another second place finish in 2016. I use all white flour when baking for competition, but started experimenting with whole wheat flour for general eating at home.

A couple months before Diane’s wedding, Muffin passed away at the age of 13. I was heartbroken, feeling especially bad for not being home at the time. My parents got new kittens from the same shelter after a bit, but they were shy and I was never home long enough after that to get close, because it was time to make my own way in the world. Diane also managed to graduate from college somewhat early, so she was out before me and soon had a job as an insurance claims adjuster. I met with various recruiters before I graduated in the spring of 1982. I had been in a coordinated undergraduate program, meaning I was fulfilling internship requirements while still in college, so I was eligible to take the Registered Dietitian exam at the first opportunity after graduating. By this time, I was having doubts about whether I liked the actual work. Hospitals had a very hierarchical, authoritarian structure that rubbed me the wrong way. But I didn't know what else I could do at that point, so I accepted an offer from Service Direction, which provided food service management to various facilities. I was given a choice of a small rural hospital in Iowa or Minnesota. I picked Minnesota, and so began my journey to the north and presumed adulthood.

                           Spinach Souffle

Recipe By: unknown
Serving Size: 2

-= Ingredients =-
8 ounce Spinach ; chopped
4 tablespoon All purpose flour
3 tablespoon Butter
1 cup Milk
1 cup Cheddar ; shredded
1 pinch Nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Marjoram
1/4 teaspoon Salt
4 large Egg ; separated

-= Instructions =-
  Cook spinach in small amount of water and drain. Set aside.

Make white sauce: Melt butter over med low heat,  stir in flour. Add milk gradually, stirring constantly. Cook until smooth.

Stir in cheese gradually . Add seasonings and remove from heat.

Beat egg yolks, then stir into sauce. Stir in spinach.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold sauce carefully into whites.

Spoon into a dish that has been greased and coated with fine bread crumbs.  Bake at 400 for 10 min, then 325 for 40-50 min.

                           Swedish Tea Ring

Recipe By Donna Nelson Simonian, with some modifications by me
Serving Size: 24

-= Ingredients =-
2 package Yeast ; dissolved in
1/2 cup Water ; warm
1 1/2 cup Milk ; scalded, then cooled
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Butter
2 large Eggs ; beaten
1 teaspoon Cardamom
1 teaspoon Salt
3 cups Whole wheat flour
3 cups All purpose flour
4 tablespoon Butter ; softened
1/2 cup Brown sugar
4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 cup Raisins

-= Instructions =-
Add butter, sugar, salt, and cardamom to warm milk.

Measure 2 cups of of whole wheat flour into mixing bowl. Stir in dissolved yeast and milk mixture. Alternately add small amounts of  both flours and eggs to keep a thick batter until ingredients are combined. Continue adding flour gradually until a kneadable dough forms. Knead until smooth and springy, on a floured surface or in mixer with dough hook, adding flour in small amounts as needed.

Place in greased bowl, turn to grease top, cover and let rise in warm place until double, about 1 hour. Punch down, let rise again.  Punch down and form into 2 balls.  Roll each into a 9 x 13 rectangle. Spread butter on 2/3 of surface, leaving a margin to seal when done rolling. Sprinkle buttered area with cinnamon, brown sugar, and raisins. Roll up like a jelly roll. Form into  a circle  on greased pan. Make cuts from the outer edge to 3/4 of the way in, about 1 inch apart.  Turn cut sections slightly on side. Let rise until almost double.

Bake at 350 degrees 25-30 min. until golden brown.  May frost or glaze if desired.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Chapter 14- High School

At the beginning of high school, it was mostly a continuation of junior high awkwardness for me, with the added problem of being in the same building with my dad! As head of the Foreign Language Dept. at Hinsdale Central, he would often find out what I got on my tests before I did! There were some perks though, he could tell us which teachers were best for certain subjects, and we could all ride there together in one car if we wanted, though this also made getting everyone in and out of the single bathroom we had quite hectic in the morning.

During my sophomore year, I started dating, the first was a fellow teacher’s brat that I knew better than most because we vacationed at his family's cottages near Hayward, WI. That started my real social life of parties,and getting to know other people in band, choir and drama. I sung in concert choir and was considered good enough to get some voice lessons, but never got solos or leads. Some friends were on stage crew, so I joined them. It was a blast, so many things go into a show: building sets, sound, lights, props, curtains, moving sets. I got to try nearly all of it. We also had great parties, often pot luck dinners. My lasagna was in demand. I did it all the hard way then, cooking the noodles, making my own sauce.  I still like to make my own sauce, but the recipe at the end of this chapter saves a few dishes at least.

While not letting on to most of my friends, I continued getting As in most classes, even calculus. Didn't like it, don’t remember a bit of it, but I could do it. Computer programming was more fun, we were lucky to have the chance to take that, but the classes were quite small. In the first year we were using Fortran and punch cards, by my second year we had moved on to Basic and cassette tapes. The assignment I remember most vividly was moving a knight around a chess board in such a way that it covered every square, but never twice. It took me a while but I got it. While I didn't choose this direction, unfortunately it seems, it is still fairly easy for me to think in terms of flow charts.

I liked my language and literature classes , and most aspects of social studies, too, but was most fascinated by sciences. Our chemistry classes with Mr. Hake were like going to stand up comedy performances! To this day I remember him saying “Fluorine is the brazen hussy of the elements, she’ll combine with anything”  One December day, we had a lab to do involving boiling a sugar solution and “protein pellets” I think I was the first to figure out we were making peanut brittle! So between liking science and having a strong interest in food and nutrition, and thinking cousin Laurie’s job sounded really cool, I chose to major in Dietetics.

The grading system changed while I was at Hinsdale Central, at some point they awarded an extra point for getting an A in advanced placement classes. This left them unable to figure out who was really valedictorian, so they named a 14-way tie, which included me, but a better speaker got to give the commencement address. Diane distinguished herself in a different way, she had mostly As too, but also got it all done in 3 years so we graduated together. Uncle Clay and Grandpa Nelson had passed on by this time, but Auntie was there to share the day with us.

L to R, me, Auntie, Diane

                         Minimal Mess Lasagna

adapted from a church cookbook
Serving Size: 12

-= Ingredients =-
1 pound Ground beef
1/2 Onion ; minced
1 quart Pasta sauce
12 ounce Lasagna noodles
1 cup Cottage cheese ; 2% fat
16 ounce Moreland cheese ; shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan ; grated
1 1/2 cups Hot water

-= Instructions =-
Brown ground beef with onion, drain excess fat.

Place enough sauce in bottom of 9 x 13 pan to just coat it. Add a layer of uncooked noodles. Cover with about half of the ground beef. Sprinkle with 1/2 of  cottage cheese, the 1/3 of mozzarella, and then 1/3 of remaining sauce. Repeat. Cover with a layer of noodles and press down gently. Pour 1/2 of hot water over all, cover with remaining sauce and then remaining mozzarella, then parmesan. Pour in rest of hot water around edges.

Cover with foil and bake at 350, 45 min- 1 hr. Remove foil and bake 20-30 min more until bubbly.