Saturday, May 28, 2016

Recipes and Memories: Stuffed Manicotti Christmas

     Ahh, the Stuffed Manicotti recipe.  Mom wrote “Very Good” on this one.  She made it on several occasions, but I remember the first time she decided to make it.  It was on a long-ago Christmas Eve, and the whole family Mom wrote “Very Good” on this one.  She made it on several occasions, but I remember the first time she decided to make it. 
     The holidays are for sharing with friends and family.  But, having moved to Alaska in 1962, we had no extended family with which to share, so we, like so many other Alaskans, adopted friends as our Aunts, Uncles, and cousins.  During the time of this story, we were particularly close with The Sears’s, the Ash family, the DeVoy’s, and the Holtom’s.  They were the sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins that we sorely missed.  Most especially during the holidays.  It was a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays.   However, after a few confusing years of choosing at random which family would host the big ones: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July, the Mom’s got together and decided to make an informal rotating holiday schedule. 
     The Stuffed Manicotti Christmas happened one year when it was my family’s (Mom’s) turn to host, and she decided to change things up.  It was on a long-ago Christmas  Day that she dared to make something besides one of the old standbys; turkey, or ham, or even prime rib!    
     “What?” I almost-but-not-quite-yelled.  “No turkey?  No stuffing and mashed potatoes?  What’s this world coming to?”
     Mom just smiled.  “Don’t worry.  It’ll be fine.”
     And, guess what, she was right.  The manicotti were a huge hit and, despite my dramatic protestations, Christmas dinner went off without so much as a hiccup! 
Stuffed Manicotti

2 Tbls. Oil                                                                        1 tsp. garlic

1 32 oz. can tomato sauce                                          1 med. onion chopped

1 Tbls. Flour                                                                    1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. oregano                                                               1 tsp. basil

1 tsp. sugar                                                                     ¼ tsp. pepper

2-1/2 C water                                                                 2 C chopped mushrooms


1 lb. hamburger                                                             ½ C chopped onion

1 lb. Ricotta or Cottage Cheese                                 1tsp. basil

24 Manicotti shells                                                       1 C shredded mozzarella

1 pinch of Love

Brown garlic in oil, add tomato sauce, stir in med. onion, flour, seasonings, sugar, water, and mushrooms.  Bring to a soft boil, reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.  Brown hamburger and ½ C chopped onion.  Pour off fat and remove from heat.  Stir in Ricotta or Cottage cheese and basil.  Stuff shells with meat mixture, lay in a 9x13 pan, cover with sauce, cover and bake @ 400 degrees for 45 -50 minutes.  Top with mozzarella and replace cover until melted.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Recipes and Memories: The Brown Recipe Box

I've decided to take my rambling blog in a new direction.  I hope you like it, and if you have a favorite recipe that brings back warm memories, please email it to me at and I'll include it in my blog.

Recipes and Memories
At our house, food was an extension of Mom’s love.  Especially her baking and most especially her cookies.  Friends used to ask for her recipes, then laughingly accuse her of leaving something out.  Their version just didn’t taste the same.  I can tell you honestly that the only ingredient left out was a pinch of Lois Schoppe’s love.  You could actually taste her love in her baked goods. 
Our dad died on April 22, 2006 and our family was devastated.  I miss him every day.  But, we still had Mom.  We still had half of the heart of our family.  Then on December 8, 2014 the remaining half of our family’s heart stopped beating.    
December 8 will forever be the day the Earth was ripped out from under me like a magician’s tablecloth.  The day my heart shattered into a million pieces.  The day I will never again be anyone's little girl. The day my mom died.
It’s been a year-and-a-half now, and I still haven’t regained my footing or found all the pieces of my heart.  I miss Mom and Dad more with each passing day, each life event, and each milestone.  But, instead of indulging my famously (at least in my family) maudlin tendencies, I’ve decided to honor Dad, the first man I ever loved, my hero, the Pied Piper of children and animals, and Mom, who gave me life, my confidant, my best friend, and the super-woman-glue who held our family together, by sharing some Schoppe family anecdotes along with recipes from Mom’s brown recipe box.
The infamous brown recipe box.
There’s a story here and I think it’s the perfect one with which to begin my blog.

The Brown Recipe Box
I arrived at Mom’s little house in Palmer, AK, where she had lived alone since Dad had moved into the Pioneer Home across the street.
“Mom!  I’m here,” I yelled as I walked in the front door.  I took a deep breath and filled my sinuses with the smell-taste of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.  But they weren’t just any old chocolate chip cookies, they were mom’s locally famous Garbage Cookies.  Loaded with everything but the kitchen sink and tasty as hell, a total party in your mouth.
“Be there in a minute,” a voice slipped around the corner of the hallway and settled in my ears.  It could have been either one of my sister’s, Lori, Melanie, or even my own, but it was Mom’s. 
We’d always gotten a lot of laughs by fooling friends and family on the phone with our identical voices.  As a family of self-proclaimed comediennes, we cracked ourselves up. 
Anyway, I grabbed warm, melty cookie and took a bite. 
I closed my eyes and moaned.  “Mmmm.  “So good.”
I opened my eyes just in time to see my mother, looking a bit frazzled, stepping around the wall and into the dining room/kitchen.  Her short fuzzy, white-gray hair stood on end and her big green eyes peered myopically past my right ear through her big round plastic framed glasses.  Mom was legally blind.  Due to the ravages of her years long battle with diabetes, her eyesight consisted of big blind spots in her middle vision.  She could see by using her peripheral vision, so when she looked a you, she seemed to be looking over your shoulder. 
Dots of perspiration glimmered on her upper lip and her fingers twitched.       
I quickly worked up enough saliva to swallow, and said, “what’s the matter?” 
“I can’t find my brown recipe box,” she said, swiveling her head from side-to-side like she was looking for the unseen recipes thieves lurking somewhere in her house. 
“Hmm,” was my thoughtful contribution.
“Did Paul take it?” she said.
I stopped chewing and blinked at her.  “No,” I said, trying unsuccessfully to quell the huffiness rising in my chest.  “Why would he take it without asking?”
“I don’t know, but I can’t find it an anywhere,” she said, wringing her hands.  “It has all my family recipes in it.” 
My huffiness vanished at the look on her face.
“Don’t worry, I’ll find it,” I said.  “It’s probably still packed away in the crawl space,”
I headed down the hall to her office, moved all the stuff in the closet, and pulled open the trap door in the floor.  As I monkeyed my way down the steep little ladder, I said.  “Remember, you are not allowed to climb down here.”
“I know,” she said, smiling sweetly as my head disappeared under the floor.  “That’s why you’re doing it.”
Thus commenced many years of me, my husband, sisters, and brothers-in-law being asked if we were sure we hadn’t “borrowed” her recipe box, professing our innocence, and then searching the crawl space in vain.  The brown recipe box was nowhere to be found.
Six months after Mom died, we found the darned thing in a box marked (and actually containing) “Slide projector & Slides”.   
We laughed so hard we cried.  Then we just cried because we found it too late. 
But, I think she knows.

Lois’s Garbage Cookies
2-1/2 C sugar                                      2-1/2 tsp. salt                                     
2-1/2 C brown sugar                           2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
2-1/2 C shortening or butter               2-1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbls. Vanilla                                      ½ C milk                                                          
6 eggs                                                  5 C oats
Add to taste, any or all of the following:  Coconut, chopped nuts, peanut butter, peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, plain M&M’s, etc…  Oh, and don’t forget… 1pinch of Love.
Mix everything together, preferably in a very large mixer, drop on ungreased cookie sheets, and bake at 350 degrees for
12 – 15 minutes, and above all...Enjoy!