Letters with food in mind continue to make every day special for me. Also appreciated are memories included from the past when moms and grandmas were responsible for preparing three meals a day, seven days week.
Add the rewards of what we referred to as “Victory” gardens planted during World War II when fruits and vegetables were harvested, canned and stored on shelves in the coolness of the basement for healthy meals in the months ahead, and the heartbeat of memories continue.
Letters from readers also bring to mind Mike Repas, a faithful reader and great cook who supplies me with many exceptional recipes he has tried, tested and improved with his own unique touch. Repas is not a Madison product, but settled here and established himself as an announcer in the airwaves business. Now retired, he spends many hours in his kitchen and shares discoveries with me along the way. In the recent past, shortly after anchovies were featured here, he contacted me about Fraboni’s tuna sauce made with anchovies and a jar of his favorite Fraboni’s spaghetti sauce.
Of course, it prompted an immediate trip to Fraboni’s Italian Deli at 108 Owen Road in Monona where I met with my friend, owner Garry Fraboni, to hear the rest of the story. With a smile, he confessed that his mother’s recipe was delicious, but time-consuming, and that his recipe is delicious, too, and much easier to make.
Those thoughts carried us both back to the “old” days while we were growing up and the wonderful meals we enjoyed every day, even on Fridays which were, as Catholics, meatless, when his non-Italian mother made rigatoni and my non-Italian mother made green pepper frittata.
Fraboni’s easy tuna sauce with anchovies
5-ounce can Genova tuna
2 fillets of anchovy in oil
32-ounce jar of Fraboni’s spaghetti sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 fresh garlic cloves, chopped
Place oil in 2-quart sauce pan. Heat on medium, add garlic and cook until golden. Remove garlic and add anchovies, then break up and cook until fish melts, about 1-2 minutes. Add tuna and stir fish together. Add Fraboni’s spaghetti sauce and simmer 15 minutes.
Note: 5-ounce cans of Genova tuna are available at Fraboni’s Deli.
Although there are many other Repas recipes to share in the near future, today’s recipe is one from Mike and his brother, Dick, who lives in California.
Slow-cooker mac & cheese
½ stick melted unsalted butter
2 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 can cheddar cheese soup, undiluted
½ cup sour cream
½ teaspoon ground mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 cup whole milk
3 eggs, beaten
Elbow macaroni, cooked to “pre-al dente”
Add butter to heated skillet; stir to melt. Stir in shredded cheese and continue until it melts. Transfer to a slow cooker and stir in the cheese soup, sour cream, seasonings and milk. Stir until well blended, then carefully and slowly, mix in the beaten eggs. Finally, stir in macaroni and mix all together. Cook on “low” for up to 3 hours. In the final 30 minutes, sprinkle a bit more shredded cheese over the top.
Note: Always use unsalted butter in cooking unless salted butter is specifically called for. You can experiment with cheese (add some you like) but always include sharp cheddar. If adding other cheeses, cut back on the cheddar proportion. You can use shells or cavatappi instead of elbow macaroni. Another suggestion: give it a bit of “zing” by adding a dash or four of hot sauce to the mix. And when you do the final cheese “topping” in the last 30 minutes, sprinkle on some “magic dust” chili powder or paprika.
The first cookie recipe to arrive for after-school treats is a favorite from Carol Frantz, Belmont.
Chuck wagon cookies
1 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
6-ounce package of chocolate chips
½ cup nuts, chopped
Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Add peanut butter and vanilla and cream well. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt and add to the mixture. Mix in chocolate chips and nuts. Roll dough in balls the size of a walnut. Press down with bottom of a glass that has been greased and dipped in sugar.
Bake at 360 degrees (that temperature is correct) for 8-10 minutes. When removed from the oven, leave cookies on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before removing.
Makes 6 dozen
Here is a cookie recipe from a reader that placed first in a category during a Wisconsin State Fair from the past.
Peanut butter scotchies
¼ pound butter
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup peanut butter
3 eggs, slightly beaten
¼ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon corn syrup, optional
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 ½ cups rolled oats
3 ounces chocolate chips
3 ounces butterscotch chips
¼ cup chopped nuts
4 ounces white chocolate
Blend butter and sugar. Add peanut butter and slightly beaten eggs. Mix well. Add and blend in vanilla and corn syrup. Combine baking soda and rolled oats and add to the other mixture. Mix well. Add chips and nuts. Blend. Drop by spoon onto a greased baking pan. Spread each into a circle. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
Topping: Melt white chocolate in double boiler. Spread over the top of cookies.
Rachel Phipps, Minnesota, sent a cookie recipe that earned a lady a Blue Ribbon a long time ago during a Minnesota State Fair. Described as a “sensational cookie,” she hopes the school kids in Wisconsin will enjoy them as well.
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup crispy rice cereal
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup shredded coconut
½ cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, sugars and oil. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well so oil doesn’t separate. Add flour mixed with cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Stir in rice cereal, oats, coconut and nuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet; flatten slightly. Bake on lower shelf of oven 5 to 6 minutes. Move to middle of oven and finish baking until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Watch carefully so they don’t become too brown. Remove from sheets and cool.
Note: If a pan of cookie dough is ready to put on the lower shelf of the oven when the one already in the oven is moved to the middle shelf, baking will be speedier.
Makes 8 to 10 dozen