Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 22, 2009

Grandma's Kitchen: Nutrition is a priority

By EDNA SHAFFER

Many years ago, when I first started playing around with writing, a remark made by a well known writer of that day stuck in my head ... and it often comes back to needle me.

He said, "Every writer worth his salt documents his own time and events in his writing."

I think about that a lot in relation to food and all the cycles and changes I've seen over the years. Food speaks volumes about the mind-set of a people and culture. Ever since the hunter/gatherers went out and conked some poor unsuspecting wild beast on the head with a club, the race has been on for a faster, tastier way to satisfy our hunger.

This pursuit occupies our thoughts and consumes our time and resources. We all know the progression until today. I have wondered if some 21st century food fanciers haven't almost elevated that pursuit of perfection into a new religion. I shiver when I read that diners pay $100 for a gourmet dinner, remembering years ago when I fed my small family almost a month for that!

I'm sure I'm a throwback in this age because I still believe that less is more, and that nutrition should be our priority. It may be a real challenge to many of us as our economy unravels and our food budget dwindles to discover new ways to get more bang for our buck.

So the food evolution goes on. I hope we won't go full cycle and get back to clubbing our dinner to death.

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Thanks to daughter Sarah for writing the good column in January, and thank you for the comments. It seems we all enjoyed her take on growing up in the parsonage in the 1970-'80s. They truly are glass houses, but we loved every minute of it and all the special people we met and loved. They remain part of our family today.

When she writes again I hope she will talk about the food industry. She has a lot of knowledge because she is an accountant for Whole Foods (West Bloomfield store). You might say it's her "bread and butter." She is also a great cook. Today she is providing hot food for a ski meet her kids are competing in.

Keeping food hot can be a problem outside when it's below zero. She just now called to tell me she has a row of slow cookers and hot chocolate pump pots, all encrusted in cold chili and wrapped in garbage bags, filling her car.

It seems a strong wind took out the tent and flipped the table and everything on it. What a mess!

All of the girls were here taking care of me during January, while I had surgery and was recuperating.

Even though I wasn't very frisky, we managed to have a great time.

Now my freezer has the goodies they made for me -- healing soup, butternut squash soup, Thai noodles, chicken casserole and numerous other tasty dishes.

Molly, my local daughter, brings me delicious food almost daily. I am so spoiled and loving it.

I also have a wonderful neighbor, Dixie Wilkins, who helps feed me. She's a terrific cook and her husband Greg cooks, too. She sent this casserole over this week and it's so good.

I asked if I could share it with you. I know you will like it and it warms up well.

Enchilada Casserole

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 large onion, chopped

2 c. salsa

1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 c. Italian salad-dressing

2 T. taco seasoning

1/4 t. ground cumin

6 flour tortillas (8 in.)

3/4 c. sour cream

1 c. shredded Mexican cheese blend

1 c. shredded lettuce

1 chopped tomato

1/4 c. minced fresh cilantro, optional

Over medium heat cook beef and onions until meat is no longer pink. Stir in the salsa, beans, dressing, taco seasoning and cumin.

Place three tortillas in a two-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer with half of the meat mixture, sour cream and cheese. Repeat layer. Cover and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Uncover, bake 5-10 minutes longer or until heated through. Let stand for 5 minutes before topping with lettuce, tomato and cilantro. Serves 8.

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Greg makes his own venison sausage and I thought some of you might like to try this with some of your venison. You can also use ground beef.

Greg's Venison Sausage

5 lbs. ground venison

5 t. quick salt

21/2 t. mustard seed

2 t. ground black pepper

11/2 t. garlic salt

1 t. smoke salt

Casings, optional

Mix the dry seasonings together, work into the meat. Place in a covered bowl and refrigerate for three days, kneading each day.

Stuff in casings or pack into rolls. Place on a cookie sheet with a rim. Bake at 150 degrees degrees for 10 hours. The flavor improves as it sets. Greg has used 3 t. liquid smoke. If you do, eliminate the teaspoon of smoke salt. Wrap tightly and refrigerate. Keeps indefinitely.

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Parting Shot:

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more."

-- Melody Beattie

Edna Shaffer is a local mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who writes about cooking from the perspective of an older adult. She can be reached via the Record-Eagle at 120 W. Front, Traverse City, Mi 49685; or by sending e-mail to: coachngrandma@charter.net.