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By Gini Rainey

Sometimes (well, to be perfectly honest – a lot of times) I have dreams that seem really real, and then in the light of day, or several years down the road, I have difficulty remembering what was real and what might have been a dream.  I was talking to a friend recently about the book Mary Poppins and how, when I was little, I read my sister’s book and there was a part where an old lady would break off her fingers and give them to the children to eat.  When this was met with disbelief, all of a sudden I wasn’t sure if that was real – or if I dreamed it!

Well, thanks to google, I was able to do some research and I discovered that P.L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books, did indeed include a such a feat in her book originally published in 1934.  From an article written by Humphrey Carpenter, I quote “…the strange and rather terrifying figure of Mrs. Corry, an aged crone who, with her fat and downtrodden daughters Miss Fannie and Miss Annie, is the proprietor of a mysterious sweet shop to which Mary Poppins takes the children. Mrs. Corry breaks off her fingers and gives them to people to eat – they are made of barley-sugar, or sometimes of peppermint – and she can remember the making of the world. She takes paper-gilt stars from the wrappings of her gingerbread, climbs a ladder and fixes them in the sky, where they become real stars.”  I can still remember the fanciful drawings of Mary Shepard that illustrated the book and depicted these actions.

In my collection of cookbooks I have Mary Poppins in the Kitchen: A Cookery Book with a Story that was written by P.L. Travers and Maurice Moore-Betty (culinary consultant) and illustrated by Mary Shepard.  Published in 1972 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, this delightful book tells of the time when Mr. and Mrs. Banks leave on a week’s vacation with Mary Poppins in charge of not only the children, but also the kitchen.  With help from various friends they make it through the week with plenty of food and adventures.

While this cookbook doesn’t include any recipes for barley-sugar or peppermint fingers, it does have “All that is or was or will be happens between A and Z,” said Mary Poppins. “And that includes this cookery book.”  Everybody love stars AND gingerbread, so here’s her recipe for Gingerbread Stars.  Preheat your oven to 350°.  Mix in a bowl ¾ cups flour, ½ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon mixed spices – I use pumpkin pie spice mix – and 1 teaspoon powdered ginger.  Stir in ¼ cup seedless raising.  Then melt ¼ cup butter and ½ cup packed brown sugar over low heat, remove from stove and let cool a bit.  Add 2 tablespoons dark molasses and 1 egg, well-beaten, to the butter/sugar mix and then mix into flour mixture.  Pour into 2 6-inch star-shaped baking tubes that have been buttered and floured and bake on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes.  Turn out on a wire rack to cool and slice.  Sounds like they will be a lot better tasting than Mrs. Corry’s ol’ fingers!

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Books

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

By Gini Rainey

Well, it sort of feels like summer is over, what with school starting tomorrow here in Tyler, but some of us are still looking forward to a little summer vacation at the beach in a few weeks.  Our family has spent a great deal of time – and money – over the past 40 years in Fort Walton Beach Florida on Santa Rosa Island.  We like to stay at the El Matador Condominiums, primarilly because they are at the end of the public access to the beach right next to where the 12 mile stretch of U.S. Air Force property begins.  Known for its pristine white beaches and sparkling clear blue water, this is our favorite spot over places like Destin and Navarre which are terribly over-populated and crowded for our taste.  

When we first started go to the beach, we would consume massive quantities of seafood, but over the years I have succumbed to what I refer to as the 4-S disease, caused by a mixture of sun, surf, sand, and seafood.  I think that the first year I realized I had this problem was when we were at The Back Porch in Destin for dinner and our friend, Joe, looked at my chest that was in full-blown hives and said “Doesn’t that hurt?”  Well, duh!  It was then that I made the connection – I’ve always been a little slow on the uptake! 

 So, while I now carefully watch my consumption of seafood (moderation in all things is the key) I still get hungry for an occasional dinner of crab legs or shrimp scampi and “The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Cookbook” has some great tasting and easy recipes in between its covers.   

This book, published in 1994 by Oxmoor House, is filled not only shrimp recipes, but also reflections from Forrest Gump of the movie of the same name.  Dedicated to the memory of Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue, Forrest’s best friend from his Viet Nam days, Forrest says “Bubba and me were partners for life.”  If you’re not familiar with the movie, perhaps you should view it while cooking up a yummy recipe from the book like Millionaire Stuffed Shrimp, Alabama-Style Shrimp Bake, Bubba’s Beer-Broiled Shrimp, Medal of Honor Shrimp Grill, Grilled Orange Shrimp Salad, Spicy Shrimp Dip (football season is coming up!), Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Cocktail, or Greenbow County Okra Gumbo.   

 My favorite, though, is for the Shrimp Scampi.  By the way, did you know that scampi means shrimp and gumbo means okra, so when you say Shrimp Scampi, you really are saying shrimp shrimp and okra gumbo would be – well, you get the direction I’m heading!  Less I digress even more, the recipe for scampi calls for 2 pounds jumbo fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined.  In a large skillet over medium heat, cook 1 finely chopped onion and 4 minced garlic cloves in 1/2 cup butter, stirring constantly for about 4 minutes. Then add 2 tablespoons lemon juice, ½ teaspoon dried tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon steak sauce, 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and ¼ teaspoon hot sauce.  Bring to a boil; add the shrimp and cook, stirring constantly for 3 to 5 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink.  Serve over fettucine (or your choice of pasta) and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and chopped, fresh parsley.  With fresh, warm garlic bread on the side and a nice green salad, you can keep summer around just a little bit longer with this yummy taste of the sea. 

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Around East Texas

Summer Wraps Up at Tyler Public Library

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Any year-round weekly programs, like story times, will be temporarily suspended during movies week, but will return on Monday Aug. 6. These programs include:

  • Mondays at 10:30 a.m. Léeme Un Cuento, Spanish preschool story time
  • Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. Panera story time, only Aug. 7 and 14 at Panera Bread on S. Broadway
  • Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. Lap and Play time for Babies
  • Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. Toddler Time
  • Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. Read Aloud Crowd for Preschoolers

Maker Space events will continue throughout the coming months on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month.  Upcoming events can be found on the Library’s website under Maker Space.

  • Saturday Aug. 21 2 p.m. Hydraulics 101

For more information on any of these programs, please contact the Library at (903) 593-7323, or find us on the web at TylerLibrary.com. The Library is located at 201 S. College Ave. in Downtown Tyler.


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Books

Wasn’t That Just Yesterday?

 

By Gini Rainey

It seems like just yesterday that my daughter Beth came home from middle school and announced that one of her classes was going to put together a booklet of favorite recipes of the students’ families.  Interestingly enough, she just celebrated another year around the sun yesterday, and as her older sister reminded her, she is on the downhill slide to 50!  At least she included a laughing emoji.  

So, there I am, cooking dinner, with her sitting across the bar from me asking where the recipe for what I was making (I think it might have been pepper steak) was so she could copy it down and take it with her to school.  Imagine her dismay when I tapped my head!  I could tell she felt like that was never going to work.  But I told her get a piece of paper and a pencil and we would figure it out together.  She may not even remember that moment in time, but seeing what a good and experimental cook she has become, perhaps what she learned that afternoon stuck with her.  Things like always, always taste what you are cooking, less is better when it comes to salt/pepper, your cupped palm will hold about a teaspoon, rub dry herbs between your palms as you sprinkle them into what you are cooking, and never be afraid to try something new.  

So, believe it or not, this memory was jogged by a cookbook, Top Secret Recipes Unlocked, written by Todd Wilbur and published in 2009 by Plume Books/Penguin Books.  As I was flipping through it, it occurred to me that even though there are some pretty good recipes in it, I found it interesting that it also included recipes for Jimmy Dean® Breakfast Sausage, Kraft® Miracle Whip, Hidden Valley® The Original Ranch® Dressing, Fritos® Hot Bean Dip, and Lipton® Brisk® Iced Tea.  Just reading the Dressing recipe made me hyper-ventilate over the list of ingredients it called for.  I mean, if I‘m going to the store to pick up all of that, why not just grab a packet of the mix? 

But, I will say the recipes included for things like Panera Bread® Broccoli Cheddar Soup, Popeyes® Red Beans & Rice, Boston Market® Butternut Squash, and Carnegie Deli® Classic New York Cheesecake sound pretty darn yummy and the ingredient lists aren’t terribly daunting.  The cool thing about this book, and the others out there that have copycat recipes, is someone took the time to taste – really taste – the original foods and experiment in their kitchen to come up with the end product that is a pretty darn good second to the original.  That’s turning cooking and your kitchen into a food lab – and I’m for that! 

One of the recipes that Beth and I saved for posterity was for my version of Pepper Steak.  First trim about 1 ½ pounds of round steak and slice paper thin (this is easier to do if the meat is slighty frozen) making the strips about 3 inches in length.  Dredge the strips in flour and brown in hot oil in a Dutch oven or a 4 quart pan. Mix 1 ½ teaspoon of garlic powder with 4 tablespoons of corn starch and blend with ½ cup soy sauce (I prefer Kikoman®) and 3 ½ cups water and pour over the beef strips.  Stir until well mixed and beginning to thicken.  Cover and reduce heat. Cut 1 large, white onion and 2 large bell peppers into eighths and add to the beef mixture.  You can also add a small can of drained sliced mushrooms and a small can of sliced water chestnuts.  Continue to simmer until the onions and peppers are cooked, but still a bit crunchy.  Serve over steamed rice.  This is some might good eating and so relatively easy to make, you might want to have the kids help cook it. 

 

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