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Where’s the Fire?

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By Gini Rainey

For those of you who might not know, I’m part owner of an independent automobile dealership that just happens to be in an old City of Tyler fire station.  Built in the mid-40s, it was replaced with a newer station forty years later and pretty much sat around waiting for someone to figure out what to do with it next.  When Jim Lozier saw the building, he had the vision to re-model and restore the building into a business which is where I have spent the majority of my waking hours the past 22 years.  While Jim sold the business to me and my business partner over ten years ago, he still drops by to visit and catch up at least once a month.  A couple of weeks ago he stopped by to take me to lunch and brought me a surprise.

Knowing of my huge interest in cookbooks and of course the fire station link, when he spotted “San Francisco Firehouse Favorites: Great Recipes by the Bay City’s Famous Firemen Chefs,” he picked it up to give me.  Co-authored by Tony Calvello, Bruce Harlow, Georgia Sackett, and Shirley Sarvis, this book was published in 1965 by Bonanza Books and not only has some great sounding recipes, but also has some pretty cool black and white photos of firemen in action.

With contributions from San Francisco firemen, this book is loaded with hearty recipes that are easy for the men to cook at the station while helping maintain the energy and gusto that firemen need to draw on while responding to emergency situations.  True to the legend of a fixed budget of a dollar a day per man, this book is a prime example of how the city’s fire department was able to serve meals and dishes of great style and ingenuity.

While I could share one or more of the heartier, main course recipes, the one that popped out at me more than any other was for Mocha Éclairs.  I love making éclairs.  There is just something so cool about how the eggs, butter, and flour incorporate with each other when making the pâte à choux that is the pastry basis for the éclairs.  If you’ve never made them, this will be a great recipe to try. To make the pastry, combine 1 cup water, ½ cup butter, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Add 1 cup flour all at once and beat over a low heat until the mixture leaves the side of the pan and begins to form a ball.  Remove from heat and continue beating to cool mixture down slightly – about 2 minutes.  Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition, until the batter has a slight sheen.

Spoon the pastry onto a greased baking sheet, shaping into fingers about 1 inch wide and 4 inches long, with about 2 inches between to allow for expansion.  Bake in a 425° oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350° and bake for another 35-40 minutes, or more, until golden brown.  Remove to a wire rack to cool, and then split open and remove any filaments of soft dough.  Then fill with Coffee Cream Filling:  Beat 2 cups heavy cream with 6 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons very strong coffee, and 2 teaspoons vanilla until stiff.  Then top with Mocha Frosting: Stir together 2 tablespoons each melted butter, very strong coffee, and powdered cocoa.  Gradually add about 1 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar, beating until smooth and of spreading consistency.  Chill for 2 hours before serving. This should make 10-12 really yummy éclairs.

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Around East Texas

And the Summer Fun Continues at Tyler Public Library!!

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More than 1,000 people have participated in the Tyler Public Library’s summer reading challenge and more than 4,200 people have attended various programs. The Library says, “Thanks for being a part of a super, rocking summer!”

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. 11 2 p.m. Anime and Manga Drawing
  • 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 The Library is located at 201 S. College Ave. in Downtown Tyler.

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Wasn’t That Just Yesterday?

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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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Jump Into Something Interesting


By Gini Rainey 

“Checking Out of The Hotel Euthanasia” by Gerard Graham 

Here is a very interesting read that reveals a lot about human nature in a very satirical format.  Graham proves he is a wizard at subtlety and irony as he spins a tale about a fictitious hotel in the fictitious kingdom of Villadedino that had pretty much fallen to ruin when Zeca, a hotel manager, was appointed to the most prestigious hotel management spot in the world by King Eugene III.  Because of Zeca’s capable management, the once decaying hotel, rose from the ashes to become a mecca for those seeking assisted dying. 

On the other side of this coin is Rab and a small group of cohorts who are on a Pope-funded mission to destroy the hotel because of the Catholic anti-assisted death platform.  Rab, who once supported assisted-suicide with a great passion, now has turned those passions against the Hotel Euthanasia and all that it represents and assumes his leadership role with great vigor. 

Along the way, we are introduced to a group of people from various walks of like who are guests at the Hotel and are seeking release from their earthly bodies in one of the various ways offered by the Hotel.  The back stories of these people could be novels in and of themselves but, bound together they comprise a very interesting read filled with different ways to look at euthanasia.  And while some readers might find the whole concept exceptionally macabre, the idea behind it certainly carries merit for those facing a lifetime of pain (however long) and an eventual death. 

 5 of 5 – Copyright 2017 – Ringwood Publishing  

 “Dark Places” by Gillian Flynn 

Told from various character’s points of view, this book is Gillian Flynn’s (Gone Girl and Sharp Objects) second novel that was published in 2009 and made into a movie in 2015 and starring Charlize Theron.  Based on the fictious satanic murder of a family in Kinnakee, Kansas, “Dark Places” follows the investigation that Libby Day, who was 7 at the time her family was murdered, undertakes to find out who actually killed 3 members of her family.  If she can find the real murderer, her brother Ben will be freed from prison where he has been held for 25 years, mostly because of her coached testimony during his trial. 

Funded and aided by the Kill Club members who believe in her brother’s innocence, Libby finally opens the boxes that hold a lot of family secrets and provide her with leads to the various people who wandered in and out of the Day’s lives 25 ago, prior to their grizzly murders. 

As usual, Gillian Flynn has written a page-turning, spell-binder that keeps you guessing till the very end about “who dun it!”  Flynn has filled this novel with characters as raw and real as possible, so real that you will find yourself drawn into their hard lives and perhaps even develop compassion for what they have face.  As with Flynn’s other books, this one is definitely worth the read and will keep you turning the pages until the very end. 

5 of 5 – Copyright 2009 – Broadway Books 

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