There are few words left for Spring Breakers to describe the cold and windy days that greeted them last month in Panama City Beach, Fla. Maybe “survival of the fittest” captures it best. Despite the inclement weather, age seems to offer miraculous powers for students to overcome the negative. Their beachfront celebrations seemed to continue without interruption while people much older wearing hoodies and parkas sat in rented cabanas spaced at a distance along the same shoreline. Any grumbling that came with the territory stopped abruptly when news kept arriving about weather back home not being much better and including more snow.

Smoothing the rough edges of a time and a place plagued with unwelcome weather usually comes in the form of food. And that’s exactly what happened when I received word from Fromagination, our exceptional worldwide cheese paradise on Capitol Square, to remind me that April is Grilled Cheese Month and special grilled cheese sandwiches would be on the lunch menu throughout the month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

I started replacing plans to prepare cool tropical fruit recipes with the warmth of a favorite sandwich grilled to perfection with surprises hidden between two slices of bread. Having already reached a new plateau last year by adding sautéed onions and crisp bacon to grilled cheese, or sprinkling cheese with fresh or dried herbs, I discovered more to consider in my favorite food magazines.

Sensing an adventure about to take place, I set aside the obvious question of why anyone would want to change a good thing and allowed my mind to run wild with cheesy passion. I thought of ethnic flavors, meat, seafood, vegetables, and condiments like pickles and olives to jazz up what many of us grew up enjoying, especially when there was chill in the air.

A good place to start is by selecting different breads and cheese and having fun surprising your family with something brand new to celebrate.

Speaking of changes, Donna Kessenich, Waunakee, sent a recipe in response to a similar one recently featured as an Oreo Cookie dessert. She adds butterscotch caramel sauce and claims it to be her family’s favorite dessert.

Oreo cookie dessert, Kessenich-style

15 ounce package Oreo chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed in a blender or food processor

½ cup butter, room temperature

½ gallon vanilla ice cream, slightly softened

8 to 10 ounces Hershey’s

chocolate syrup

About 2/3 cup of Mrs. Richardson’s Butterscotch Caramel Sauce

12 ounces Cool Whip, thawed

Mix crushed cookie crumbs with butter. Reserve 1 cup for topping.

Spread remaining crumbs in buttered 9x13 pan and lightly pack down crumbs. Place slightly softened ice cream over the cookie crumbs (ice cream from a square box works well to slice and place neatly over crumbs). Apply chocolate sauce by generously zig-zagging it up and down and across ice cream, making sure there is chocolate in each piece to be cut and served. Heat butterscotch caramel sauce in microwave so it spreads well. Cover with thawed whipped topping and sprinkle extra cookie crumbs on top. Freeze until needed.

During the early years of writing this column, a raspberry cream cheese pie was featured from the Main Street Café in Bloomer. I recently came across a similar recipe from Elnor Reichel, tucked away in my files for future use and thought it was time to share what she believes is the real pie recipe from the café that was given to her by a friend, handwritten on an index card with the café’s name and address.

Raspberry cream cheese pie

1 baked 9-inch pie shell

Cream cheese filling:

4 ounces cream cheese

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

¼ of an 8-ounce container of Cool Whip

Cream together cream cheese and powdered sugar. Mix in Cool Whip. Spread on the bottom of a baked 9-inch pie shell and chill.

Glaze and filling:

1 cup water

3 tablespoons cornstarch

¾ cup sugar

3 tablespoons raspberry

Jell-O powder

2 cups fresh raspberries

Mix sugar and cornstarch together. Add water and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When it begins to boil, boil for 1 minute while stirring. Remove from heat and add raspberry Jell-O. Stir until powder is thoroughly dissolved. Cool. Fold in raspberries. Carefully place over cream cheese base and chill.

Longtime reader Otto Anderson hoped it was possible for me to contact the owners of an Asian restaurant near Madison where he and his wife enjoyed a Szechuan green bean menu item. Though I tried three times, those who answered weren’t able to understand what I needed. After telling Anderson of my failure to secure the recipe, he found one himself, tried it, and claimed that it was very close to what he ordered at the restaurant. Here it is for the adventurous cook.

Szechuan green beans Indo-Chinese

1 pound fresh green beans

1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped scallion

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon chili sauce

1 teaspoon white vinegar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed in with 2 tablespoons cold water

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Heat oil in skillet until hot. Add green beans; stir and cook for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Remove from skillet. Add sesame oil and heat until it begins to smoke a little. Add scallion, ginger and garlic, stirring about a minute or two. Add chili sauce, white vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and add cornstarch and water mixture, stirring until thickened a little. Return beans to mixture, add sesame seeds and mix. Serve warm.

With Chinese food in mind, this is one of my favorite salads, copied from a community cookbook from the North Side of town that I no longer can find. It was submitted by Sue Jurack and on a copy of the page, I wrote “Excellent.”

Shrimp salad Cantonese

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 cup walnut halves

1 cup diagonally sliced celery

½ cup sliced green onions

5-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained

11-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained

3 4 ½ ounce cans cooked shrimp (I used fresh shrimp)

Sweet-sour dressing

Lettuce or endive

Combine butter, soy sauce and walnuts in saucepan. Cook at low heat about 10 minutes or until walnuts are lightly toasted. Stir occasionally. Cool.

Chill remaining ingredients until ready to serve. Combine celery, onions, water chestnuts, oranges and shrimp. Add enough dressing to coat ingredients. Fold in walnuts. Line a salad bowl with lettuce or endive. Spoon salad over greens. Serves 8.

Sweet-sour dressing:

3 eggs

½ cup sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon curry powder

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup cider vinegar

1 tablespoon butter

14-ounce can evaporated milk

Beat eggs slightly. Mix in sugar, flour, salt and curry. Blend in lemon juice and vinegar. Cook at medium heat until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add butter and remove from heat. Gradually blend in milk and mix until smooth. Chill.

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at

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