Mary Jo Gaush

How to enjoy food started at a very young age. I used to go to the bakery with my father on Saturdays. The bakery was in a section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that had a cake doughnut called a “Torpedo.” My father loved baked goods. I found out later that he used to work in a bakery at one point in his life. The memories of smells and tastes that I developed, I think, stemmed from those early experiences.

My mother would send me to the butcher shop when my younger brother was a baby (I was seven). My mother didn’t drive and couldn’t go because my brother was so little. I gained an appreciation of a butcher shop from that experience—not so much the smells, but the variety of things laid out in the cold window cases for customers to see. My mother’s list was always the same. If you knew what day of the week it was, you knew what you were having for dinner that day. They were not very inspiring meals, but they were healthy meals. What did spur my interest was how I could improve upon mealtime.

I experimented with bread-making, pizza making, and recreating meals that my mother made. After all, you have to start somewhere. My mother went along with this, albeit begrudgingly. She was more concerned about me messing up her kitchen. Well, that’s how it all started. No, I didn’t end up as a chef, even though I had a couple of forays into food entrepreneurship along the way, to be discussed at a later date.

What actually led me to write this article was a happening in my life that made me seriously rethink food, not something to play around with, but as a life-giving force.

I am a throat cancer survivor. Wow, did that put a whole new light on things! I learned a whole lot of things, and a new appreciation for food. One of the side effects of this ordeal was losing, and then partially regaining, my sense of taste. Thank goodness, I still have my sense of smell, which is half of the food experience—and memory (thank goodness, I still have some of that left). I can still remember how things should smell and taste.

I wanted to share a recipe with you that should appeal to everyone, no matter what your circumstances. It is something that can be recreated in many different ways and is frugal (who doesn’t know about the need for frugality?). I started to explain this recipe to my brother the other day when he called from Oregon, and he said, “Stop, you’re making me hungry!”

The recipe starts with a readily available product, Pepperidge Farm Bread Stuffing; however, you do not have to use this particular product. You can use your own bread and seasonings. The directions for this stuffing says to add sautéed onion, celery, and broth. You can use any kind of broth you want since the following recipe is very versatile. As a side note: I end up with so much of this stuffing that I flatten it and store it in parchment paper and plastic bags in the freezer for future uses.

What I’m aiming for here is a patty filled with things you like and/or happen to have handy. The first time I made this, I used canned chicken breast (Kirkland Signature brand), Better Than Bouillon chicken bouillon, an egg, grated Parmesan cheese, dried parsley flakes, and a handful of the above created stuffing (you can use whatever amount seems appropriate for your tastes). I fried these patties up (oh, by the way, they seem very crumbly and don’t want to stick together, but that’s okay, just get them into the pan as best as you can. They will congeal once the egg starts to cook and the cheese starts to melt.

You can use these patties in numerous ways: with or in soups; cold, right out of the fridge for a bedtime snack; alongside or in a salad; with mashed potatoes and gravy…the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. You can use the patty idea (stuffing, egg and cheese as binders, and seasonings) and use different meat fillings, such as ham or Spam, leftover meats of any kind, salmon, or tuna. Nothing that I have tried with this patty idea tasted bad or blah. We even used the stuffing in meatloaf along with ground beef and pork sausage (seasoned breakfast sausage), a little mustard, some “everything” seasoning, dried parsley flakes, with a glaze made of ketchup, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Boy, if that doesn’t make your taste buds sit up and take notice!

I’d better stop; I’m making myself hungry! Enjoy the experience of creating a new food that makes you feel fulfilled, as well as filled.

Courtesy Photo of Mary Jo Gaush Baking Her Raspberry-buttermilk Coffee Cake

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