The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 8, 2013

Cheryle Finley: Great moms don't come with a recipe

By Cheryle Finley
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — Sunday is Mother's Day, so please humor me while I tell you about my mother, Wilma Evans.

They say you never appreciate your parents until you become a parent, and I believe it. Not that I didn't appreciate my parents when I was growing up. My sister, Sue, and I always had what we needed, and many times got what we wanted. I remember going to Safeway with my mother every Friday to buy groceries with my dad's paycheck of about $90, then getting the cash difference back and heading to Neely's for a $4 tank of gas that would last all week. I never thought about what happened to the rest of the money.

I just know we got new school clothes every year, nice Christmas and birthday presents and a trip to California one year. These special treats were really special. I remember an electric blanket being a big deal.

We didn't have a color television until I was in high school. I think the only programs in color were "Bonanza," "Disney's Wonderful World of Color" and "Hulabaloo." It was exciting having a color TV with three channels. We watched TV, as a family, until bedtime. Imagine the four of us agreeing on what shows to watch. Of course, with less choices came less opinions. We had to get up from our seats to change the channel or turn up the volume, and it didn't hurt us one bit. Some nights after TV and before bed, we would go to the local Dairy Queen, then take a ride over the tickle-tummy bridge (on Oak Street, in Carthage). Good times.

Mom cooked three meals a day. These were big meals, especially breakfast and dinner, and we ate them together at the kitchen table. We almost always had dessert; cake, cookies or something sweet, made from scratch. Mom would fix all of our favorites, such as big bowls of fried potatoes and onions from her cast-iron skillet. I always requested vegetable soup for my birthday dinners.

We went to the dentist for  regular checkups. When I was born, Dr. Woods was paid with half a processed hog. He made house calls when we were sick. Our health was never compromised, and I'm sure there were times when mom did without so we could get well. She was right there with me the entire time when surgery complications from my tonsillectomy sent me back to the hospital for five days. She was my advocate, asking for more suitable food and taking the surgeon to task for not checking on me enough. And I remember the stern voice she used with the ticket-taker at the Roxy Theatre when the lady told mom that she would try to remember that mom had produced my birth certificate so I wouldn't have to argue my age each time I bought a ticket. I was never asked about my age again. I think I could have bought a child's ticket well into adulthood because the threat of my mother reappearing was always present.

In the two years since my dad passed away, mom has gotten stronger each day, although she misses his constant companionship. I can't begin to understand how difficult it has been for her, but I know she cherishes the almost 60 years they had together. She's quick to laugh, even at herself, when she's told it's time to remove the plastic from the 10-year-old living-room lamps. She helps care for her great-grandson and doesn't hesitate to tell me to stop cutting my own hair.

Do I appreciate her? You bet. Not only for what she does but for who she is. She makes me a better person; knowing a silent sacrifice is better than a showy one and that there's nothing more important than family. Happy Mother's Day, mom. Love you.

Happy Mother's Day also to that Joplin woman, and happy birthday to her on Friday. Love you, too. It's hard to believe my grandson, Atlas, will be 8 years old on Saturday. We are planning a bonfire wiener roast, and I'm afraid there will either be snow or temperatures of 100.

When Globe Features Editor Joe Hadsall suggested I peruse the pasta aisle and buy some Gia Russa gnocchi, I thought that was a reasonable request. Then he instructed me to not follow the package directions, and I hesitated. Instead of boiling them in water, Joe said to fry the little nuggets in a little olive oil and butter. I did just that and now have a new favorite side dish. I cooked them until they were brown and a little crispy, and they were delicious. Thank you, Joe, for the new flavor addition and cooking alternative. Give them a try, and I think you will like them as much as I do.

Last week I said I would share some recipes using the seafood flavor boost from your Taste of Home goodie bags, and I found two great ideas on campbellskitchen.com. Each one is delicious and can be on the table in about 20 minutes. Don't let the word "aioli" scare you -- it's just a simple sauce.

My friend Donna Elliott asked me if I had a good dark chocolate cake recipe, and I think I found one at food.com. Top it with dark chocolate frosting and you have a fabulous dessert. It would be perfect if your mom loves chocolate. Happy Mother's Day and happy eating.

 

Crab cakes with lemon-garlic aioli

3/4 cup cracker meal or plain bread crumbs, divided

1 small red pepper, finely chopped

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

1 egg, beaten

2 packets Swanson seafood flavor boost concentrated broth

2 (6-ounce) cans fancy lump crabmeat, drained

Pepper

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix 1/2 cup cracker meal, red pepper, onion, parsley, egg, broth and crabmeat. Season with pepper. Shape into patties then coat with remaining cracker meal. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Cook patties 10 minutes or until brown on both sides. Stir together mayonnaise, lemon juice and garlic. Season with pepper. Serve with crab cakes. Yields 5 servings.

 

Salmon filets with balsamic mustard glaze

1 1/4 pounds salmon filets, 3/4-inch thick

Pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 packets Swanson seafood flavor boost concentrated broth

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon country-style Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons water

Season filets with pepper. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add fish, skin side up, and cook 5 minutes or until browned on bottom. Turn and cook 5 minutes or until flaky. Remove from skillet, cover and keep warm. Stir remaining ingredients in small bowl until smooth. Add mixture to skillet and cook 1 minute over low heat until mixture is hot. Serve glaze over fish. Yields 4 servings.

 

Crazy dark chocolate cake

3 cups flour

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup Hershey's special dark cocoa

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 cups water

Frosting:

1/2 cup butter

2/3 cup Hershey's special dark cocoa

1/3 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa in ungreased 9-by-13-inch baking pan; blend well. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add oil, vinegar and vanilla. Pour water over all ingredients and mix with a fork until well blended. Bake 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees until toothpick inserted in middle of cake comes out clean. Cool completely. For frosting, melt butter and stir in cocoa. Alternating, mix in milk and powdered sugar. Beat to spreading consistency, adding more milk or sugar as needed. Stir in vanilla. Frost cooled cake.



Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.