“This Streetwalker’s Stew recipe is what inspired me to create a memory recipe book,” Suzanne Creech said as she gently ran her hand across the page. “A friend gave me the recipe when he first discovered the art of cooking. He took delight in exercising his new-found culinary creativity by giving a basic stew recipe a more colorful name.” She laughed heartily. “It was fun watching a young person get excited about cooking.”
Suzanne explained more to me about her hand-made recipe book over fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies and rich black coffee at her home in Roswell, New Mexico. “My recipes have become a part of me, so preserving the recipe in its original format is like protecting the relationship with a person that I hold dear, it’s part of the bond I share with that person, along with the story behind the recipe!”
Suzanne refilled my coffee cup and we continued our leisurely tour through her recipe collection that spans 30+ years. “Many of my recipes are very special to me because they’re hand written, perhaps were given to me to make for a memorable occasion, or exchanged under comical circumstances.” She paused and said, “every time I prepare a recipe that someone has given me, I take a mini-journey to visit either my sister, or my aunt, or whoever gave me the recipe. With my memory recipe book, I will continue making those trips and visits, but in a more organized way.
“I began my recipe book by first gathering up my disheveled, menagerie of recipes. Then, I placed them in one big pile next to a box of sheet protectors. My husband, Loran, volunteered to create a cover, which he did and appropriately titled it, ‘Suzie’s Red Hot Recipes’ with a ristra painted in watercolor. Didn’t he do a terrific job?” She closed the book long enough to show off her hubby’s fine artwork. “Then, my extended ‘vacation’ down a very long Memory Lane began.” She sighed and smiled proudly recalling her labor of love project.
From my perspective, Suzanne’s memory recipe book is a culinary tribute to her life-in-the-kitchen. It beautifully commemorates her mother, her sister, cousins, aunts, and friends, each one sharing a tasty sample of their cooking expertise and creativity with her. This is the reason the book far surpasses being a recipe collection. The personal treasury with hand-written embellishments, such as, “Best Wishes or “Good Luck” jotted in the margins, along with individual ingredient changes and serving suggestions, sometimes elegantly noted, other times clumsily annotated depending on the author’s style, maps the story of Suzanne’s life.
“Each time I make a recipe that’s written on personalized stationary, scrawled on the back of a crinkled deposit slip, scribbled on a dusty envelope or type-written on a recipe card, I remember the person who gave it to me.” Suzanne thumbed through the colorful, diverse book, pausing thoughtfully at several of the pages.
“See this little piece of folded pink paper,” she held up what looked like a miniature origami. “I didn’t know how to fold a burrito, so my friend, Sue Anne, in Missouri made me this tiny, paper burrito to demonstrate how to fold a burrito. I’ll never part with this ‘burrito’ as it symbolizes the caring connection I have with Sue Anne. It’s the story behind the recipe!”
“Look, here’s the recipe I’d like to share with your readers. I call it Lorelei’s Chicken Rice Salad. My husband and I never get enough of it. It’s a unique combination of Italian seasoning and rice with crunchy pieces of almond and celery creates the kind of salad that we find hard to stop eating once we start.
“The remarks that are scrawled all over the recipe show several of the roads it’s traveled. What’s funny; is that Lorelei made her changes to the recipe before she faxed it to me and two people previous to Lorelei crossed ingredients off and wrote their opinions and suggestions in the margins!”
I was amused at Suzanne’s animation as she recounted the roundabout route the recipe took before it found a home with her. “I can’t help but wonder from where this recipe originated and how many stops it made that aren’t noted!”
Suzanne chuckled playfully, “It appears this recipe’s road trip hasn’t come to a dead end yet and I’m really glad it, along with many others, took up residence in my memory recipe book!”
Lorelei’s Chicken Rice Salad
2-6 ounce long & wild rice package mixes (discard seasoning packets)
1 package (dry) Italian salad dressing mix
1 cup artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
2 cups celery, chopped
1 cup red or green pepper, chopped (optional)
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
4 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup almonds, slivered and toasted
1 small jar pimentos, drained (optional)
1 small can black olives, drained and sliced (optional)
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Using 1/2 cup less water for each package, cook rice as directed (do not use seasoning packets). Mix Italian dressing according to package directions. Marinate artichokes, celery, green peppers, and mushrooms in prepared Italian dressing overnight. The next day combine rice, chicken, mayonnaise, parsley, almonds, pimentos and olives to marinated mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill and serve on bed of lettuce, if desired. Yield: 8 Servings
For more nostalgic stories that’ll make you smile and traditional comfort food recipes, check out Pork Chops & Applesauce by Cynthia Briggs’. Both Pork Chops and Sweet Apple Temptations are the perfect gift for all seasons, especially “family reunion” season. Order now!
Bonus recipe: Summer appetizer that’s cool and fresh.
Crab or Shrimp and Avocado Cucumber Rounds
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons wasabi powder or wasabi paste
1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
1/2 large seedless cucumber, un-peeled and cut into 24 1/4” thick slices
1/2 medium avocado, quartered and cut into 24 slices
1/4 pound crab or imitation crab meat or 24 cooked shrimp (peeled and de-veined), make 24 small mounds of crab meat or cut imitation crab or shrimp into 24 pieces to fit on cucumber slices
2 tablespoons red radish, finely chopped
24 small fresh mint leaves
To make wasabi mayonnaise: whisk together mayonnaise, wasabi powder and soy sauce in a small bowl until smooth; set aside.
Assemble Cucumber Rounds by placing cucumber slices on a large platter. Spread each cucumber slice with 1 teaspoon (or less) wasabi mayonnaise. Place slice of avocado on top, add a mound of crab meat, sprinkle with radish and top with mint leaf. Serve immediately.
Yields: 12 servings, 2 per serving
Bonus recipe: Summer dessert, light and refreshing treat.
Pineapple Cloud Delight
1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple in own juice, undrained
1 pkg. (1 oz.) vanilla flavor regular or fat free/sugar-free instant pudding mix
1 cup non-diary whipped topping, thawed
1 pkg. (10 oz.) round angel food cake, regular or sugar-free, cut twice horizontally through the center to create 3 layers
10 large fresh strawberries, cut into halves and sweeten slightly
Combine pineapple and dry pudding mix. Gently fold in non-dairy topping. Stack cake layers onto place, spreading pudding mixture between layers and top of cake. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour; cut and serve each piece with additional non-dairy topping and garnish with strawberries. Yield: 8 to 10 servings
“It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you.” ~Author unknown, sometimes attributed to M. Grundler