Sharing memories about tobogganing at Olbrich Park triggered many thoughts sent in by readers who, like me, despite our ages, wish we could return in a split-second to the thrill and chill of it all.

Sitting in his favorite comfortable chair in the warmth of his home, Loyde Childs claims he got frostbite on his nose while reading the Jan. 17 column about tobogganing. His adventures often carried him over the Starkweather Creek Bridge which meant an extra long trip back up the hill and back up the steps to do it all over again.

Glenn Hovde claims the biggest thrill for him was to be the end person on the toboggan to sit backwards while going down the slide. As a youngster, he claims that many times it felt like his stomach was in his throat, and like Childs,he looked forward to as many tobogganing adventures as possible on a single morning, afternoon, or evening for more winter thrills of a lifetime.

Peggy Rakow’s description of the column was “priceless” as she sat behind her dad and kept her fingers inside at all times. She also kept her eyes closed until sliding over Starkweather Creek to survive another bitter cold experience at Olbrich Park.

Joanne Woellner’s favorite memories mirrored the others. Remembering tobogganing on the ice blocks from Oscar Mayer & Co. as the ride of a lifetime. When she and her brothers finished their long walk home to Milwaukee Street, they were treated to cocoa and… cinnamon toast.

I’m not sure where David Rizzo went tobogganing because he grew up in Kenosha, yet his winter tobogganing experiences ended much like ours in Madison with the comfort of a warm blanket and a cup of hot cocoa.

When I sold my 70-year-old padded eight-seat toboggan a few years ago for $35, it tugged at my heart strings with memories of the excitement we had. And when the snow season ended for another year, the toboggan was hung on the basement wall to await next year’s winter at Olbrich Park.

Moving on to the warmth of a winter supper. This happens to be in response to a request from Ann Fay in 2013 for my husband’s favorite “breakfast casserole.” Although she thought it had been published before, the only favorite recipe from the past that his mother used to make was hamburg gravy and mashed potatoes. Since I had misplaced the recipe, Dick’s sister-in-law, Rose Murray, recently sent it from her home in Seville, Ohio. I made it immediately and he devoured with a smile. Be sure to read notes at the end of the recipe.

Hamburg gravy

2 ½ pounds of ground beef (See note)

2 large yellow onions, peeled, halved, and sliced or as much as you want

1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced or as much as you want


Celery salt (“Mom’s favorite salt”)

Water or beef broth

Cornstarch and water

Mashed potatoes

Brown beef about half way. Add onions and garlic. Continue browning while trying to remove as much fat as possible. Add pepper and celery salt. Cover with water or beef broth. Continue cooking for a good flavor. Mix an amount of cornstarch with water, stirring into the meat sauce to thicken enough to make a nice gravy. Serve over mashed potatoes.

Note: I used ground chuck and the amount of onions cook down nicely. Instead of pouring water over the browned beef and onions, I used a 14-ounce can of beef broth with no water, ¼ teaspoon black pepper and 1 teaspoon celery salt. Add enough cornstarch with water to thicken the gravy. If more flavor is needed, add one or two cubes of beef bouillon. I also added a few drops of Gravy Master for a darker gravy. Serve over mashed potatoes.

Yield is about 6-8 servings.

Another request arrived from an anonymous reader searching for more recipes for two. These were featured in a May 1984 Bon Appetit magazine. Put them all together for a romantic Valentine’s dinner.

Fried potatoes with garlic and cilantro

2 tablespoons (¼ stick) of butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large garlic clove, peeled

2 large baking potatoes, peeled, sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

Melt butter with oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add garlic clove and stir until golden. Discard garlic. Add potatoes and cook until tender and golden brown, turning often, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add cilantro, or a different herb, and serve.

Serves 2

The same Bon Appetit issue offered a simple and delicious scallop soup for two with broth that can be prepared up to one day ahead, covered and refrigerated, then reheated before adding the scallops.

Scallop soup

1 ½ cups chicken broth

¾ cup beef broth

¼ cup bottled clam juice

¼ cup dry white Port

Freshly ground white pepper

2 ounces uncooked sea scallops, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion tops or chopped chives

Bring broths, clam juice and Port to boil in small saucepan. Season with pepper. Divide scallops between 2 bowls. Ladle broth over, garnish with green onion or chives and serve.

Note: I checked with someone at Steve’s Wine, Beer, Spirits on University Avenue about dry white Port as the recipe states it gives the soup a “hauntingly different flavor.” Steve’s does carry dry white Port. A substitution could be a dry sherry.

If you’ve been thinking about a main dish for two to serve on Valentine’s Day, here is a recipe you might consider as being a “hearty dinner from Portugal” featured in a May 1984 issue of Bon Appetit.

Portuguese steak

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 garlic clove, minced

2 8-ounce beef tenderloin steaks, about 1-inch thick

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup dry red wine

1 ½ teaspoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons (1/4stick) butter, cut into pieces, room temperature

2 thin slices of prosciutto, chopped

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Combine vinegar and garlic in non-aluminum bowl. Let stand 10 minutes. Pat steaks dry. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper on both sides. Rub vinegar mixture into steaks on both sides. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes; or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 hour.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter with oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add steak and cook to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for rare. Transfer steaks to plates and cover with foil. Pour off fat in skillet. Stir in wine over high heat, scraping up any browned bits. Boil until liquid is syrupy, about 3 minutes. Whisk in tomato paste. Remove from heat. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons butter 1 piece at a time, incorporating each piece completely before adding next. Stir in the chopped prosciutto and parsley. Spoon sauce over steaks and serve.

Recent request: Slow cooker beer cheese soup

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