1. Boil one head of cabbage in water about 15-20 minutes. Drain and cool.
2. In a bowl, mix: 3/4 lb ground beef 2 TB uncooked rice 1 grated onion (sm) 1/2 TB ketchup 1 egg salt & pepper
3. In another bowl, mix sauce: 1 large can tomatoes 1 large can tomato soup (or sauce) scant 1/2 c brown sugar lemon juice to taste
4. Separate cabbage leaves and roll a small amount of the above mixture in each leaf. NOTE: If you have leftover mixture after filling leaves, you can roll the mixture into tiny meatballs.
5. In deep pot, put alternating layers, first of sauce (crumble a handful of ginger snaps into bottom layer of sauce), then a layer of rolled cabbage leaves (and tiny meatballs, if you have any), then one layer of sliced onion rings, then repeat.
6. NOTE: If you'd like to get a second meal out of this, put a nice piece of chuck roast in the bottom of the pot, on top of the first layer of sauce and below the first layer of rolled cabbage.
7. Cook on low heat, covered, for about 2 1/2 hours.
Every family has secrets, and this recipe was one of ours. But after my newspaper column this week about what a good cook my grandmother was, readers have been asking—in some cases, begging, or pleading, or acting like it's the end of the world if they don't get it—for the recipe. It's so rare to be able to make so many people feel good by doing so little. So I typed up the recipe for you:
Vina Slatalla’s Devil’s Food Cake
For the cake:
1/2 cup coffee, perked
2 tbsp sugar
3 squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour, sifted together with 1 tsp baking soda
1 cup walnuts
For the frosting:
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup milk
Optional: Coconut flakes
To make the cake:
oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x12 pan.
first three ingredients in a small pot, bring to a boil, let cool.
large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in eggs,
then milk and vanilla.
flour a second time as you add it to the batter, mixing gently.
in cooled chocolate mixture.
for 30 minutes.
To make the frosting:
1. Melt chocolate and butter and saltin small pan.
mixing bowl, combine chocolate mixture with vanilla. Gradually beat in
confectioners’ sugar and milk. Adjust sugar and milk as necessary for proper
3. Frost cake, and drizzle with coconut if you like.
Author's Diary, Day 11: I spent almost four years, asking everybody I ran into to tell me stories about my grandmother, who died in 1992. I heard about how she liked to make peanut butter taffy when she was a girl and about how she delivered babies when she was a nurse in her small eastern Kentucky town.
The only beau I heard about was the one who turned out to be my grandfather, who rode into town on a Harley in 1937 and rode off with her. But now that my book is published, new facts are coming to light.
I received this email from Elliott Fraim, who owns a bookstore in Prestonsburg, Kentucky: "As of today we have sold 103 copies of the book. Several people have mentioned having photos etc. to show you when you are here. Just this AM a lady said that she had found a photo of your grandmother with a boyfriend, which she wanted to bring to you."
A Nelson Long Neck sounds like beer to me. A new kind of frosty, delicious beer. This explains why I got so excited when a reader wrote to suggest I try one while the weather is hot. But then the Nelson turned out to be a brightly colored hose nozzle ($12.95), with eight different spray settings and an ergonomic comfort handle. "The colors are a bit bright, but you can always find them in the grass," wrote Stephen, a gardener whose plants are no doubt surviving this summer's heat wave very happily. (He also had nice things to say about customer service at Mastergardening.com, which replaced his nozzle promptly after a metal clip failed.)
Me? I'll be the person standing in the front yard, holding a hose in one hand and a sweating Bud in the other.
Author's Diary, Day 4: Every book is missing something. Mine left out all the top-secret recipes -- for candy and desserts mostly, because we have a real sweet tooth in my family -- that my great grandmother and her daughters used to make a long time ago in Kentucky.
My mother somehow got her hands on my Aunt Butch's recipe for cream candy (left), a taffy-like concoction that is not something the faint of heart should try to make because, according to the instructions, you must "heat to 260 and run like hell to a cold countertop" to start pulling the mixture into a rope as it cools. Oh, and, "Butter hands and watch out for blisters."
I need my hands to type. So you can see why I haven't tried to make cream candy. Even my mother, a cream candy expert, is happy to get her supply these days from Ruthhuntcandy.com, which she says is "fine for store-bought."
After I wrote a newspaper column last week about cream candy, readers wrote to suggest another blister-free source of old-fashioned cream candy, Rebeccaruth.com (thanks to Martin and Galen). I'll be sampling some next month in Kentucky.
Author's Diary, Day 2: First, pick a topic that is considered to be universally sexy like, say, Kentucky.
Then, when the book is published, send an email announcement to everyone you know.
After nearly ten years of writing regular columns for places like Time, Rosie, Lifetime, the Discovery Channel Online, the New York Times and even a now-defunct magazine called Netguide, I know a lot of people. This week I wrote to some to tell them about my book. In response, I received many nice notes ("Congratulations," "Can't wait to read about Kentucky," etc.), but of course those are not the ones on which I dwell when I lie awake at 2 a.m.
No, what sticks in my mind are ones like "...didn't know you are a writer," "Michelle: You are an spammer" and, perhaps my favorite, "I can't imagine where you got my mailing address," which came from a person who once had corresponded with me at some length about the time his car was hit by lightning. Clearly what we had shared ("Did you feel a jolt? -- M" "No, no jolt") meant more to me than to him.
Day 1: My book is published. People ask, "Aren't you excited?" "Yes," I lie. Do I sound paranoid? Don't answer that. In fact, don't say anything at all to me this week unless it's some hollow platitude about how nice my book's cover looks or how much you liked the first chapter (you don't actually have to have read the first chapter to say this, by the way). Or, if you feel too guilty about discussing the book without having read it, just read one of the excerpts on my website. I'll never know the difference.
Nobody has more quarts of test paints lying around the house. After decades of trying to find no-fail paint colors, my list only includes two: Benjamin Moore's Windham Cream (HC-6) and Donald Kaufman's DKC-37 (a silvery blue). To add to this list, readers have sent their own suggestions. Will they work? Get out your fan decks and check them out:
1. Restoration Hardware's Silver Sage (thanks to Lee and to Marilyn for testing) 2. Benjamin Moore's Montgomery White (Lee again) 3. Benjamin Moore's 312, which Liz described as "a great interior yellow"
4. Farrow & Ball's Borrowed Light (thanks, John)
5. Benjamin Moore's Beacon Gray (Helen wrote: " It is actually one of the chips on their "whites" palette, and it looks very gray. But it comes out just right, and I'm guessing it's a lot cheaper than the one you wrote about in your column this week.")
6. Benjamin Moore's Mt. Rainier Gray (Lisa wrote: "I found it in the gray section, but is really is a beautiful soft gray blue, up in the New York light anyway.")
After I wrote about my obsession with planting clematis vines everywhere -- on the trellis, on the fence, on a wire pyramid garden structure that I bought in desperation after I ran out of trellises and walls -- I heard from a number of readers who were similarly addicted. Deborah, a clematis lover who has 110 cultivars in her garden, suggested I make room for some of her favorites: "Please try durandi (herbaceous) and regency or julia correvan (climbers)...just to mention 3."
Even Henry David Thoreau had a soft spot for the velvety flowering vines, although he apparently considered their frivolous beauty a luxury that not everyone could appreciate: "The wildest dreams of wild men, even, are not the less true, though
they may not recommend themselves to the sense which is most common
among Englishmen and Americans today. It is not every truth that recommends itself to the common sense.
Nature has a place for the wild clematis as well as for the cabbage."
In my garden, it turned out, there's only room for clematis.
Some topics strike a real chord with readers. After my newspaper column last week about my dog's billy club of a tail, a lot of people wrote to commiserate. I was relieved to learn my dog Otto is not the only pet who drove his owner to purchase stemless glasses in defense. And I was particularly haunted by one reader's story:
Thirty five years ago, I purchased a set of beautiful handblown antique wine glasses. I wasn't much for drinking or collecting things for a hope chest, but these were exquisitely thin crystal, perfectly shaped and delicately etched with grape clusters and vines. I took the when at 20 I moved across the country to San Francisco, and then, when I moved to new york ten years ago, I stored them with a friend. She had them shipped with the rest of her things when she moved to Florida last September.
I went to visit her last weekend, and she said, hey, I still have your wineglasses. She unpacked them from their professionally done bubble wrap, and put them on her kitchen counter, where we stood admiring them. suddenly, one of her cats jumped up onto the counter.
Yesterday I got back from China, where I shopped at the stalls of Beijing's enormous Panjiayuan Flea Market. I bought glass beads (20 yuan), an old wooden-case mantel clock with a ticking Mao (80 yuan), a long cloth decorated with a traditional Miao design (140 yuan) and a Coca-Cola (10 yuan). If I had more time and if airplanes had bigger overhead compartments for carry-on luggage, I also would have brought home a painted wooden footstool (40 yuan), a hand mirror decorated with a painted of three pink-cheeked Red Guard girls (150 yuan), Cultural Revolution posters, a huge Buddha for the garden and an old Underwriter typewriter (price unknown).
It's no secret my family is addicted to board games. After reading my newspaper column this week, a number of readers wrote to confess they feel similarly -- and to suggest some new games I hadn't heard of. Joshua wrote : "Have you tried Ingenious? It's an amazing spacial game, involves making opportunities for other players as much as closing them."
And Eric, a writer who reviews games, offered another kind suggestion: "You might consider trying TransAmerica or Ticket to Ride for your next game purchase as both titles have a spatial element that might appeal to you. Thurn and Taxis, due to be published by Rio Grande in May, is a somewhat deeper game, but that might be a good next step as it works with 2-4 people and can be played quickly or more thoughtfully. (I attended a game convention in Ohio recently and learned to play on a German edition of the game.)"
I spent most of last week driving around the Midwest, visiting colleges with my 17-year-old daughter. On every campus tour, we ran into families who, just like us, were looking for "the right fit" and who had traveled hundreds of miles to investigate.
Of course, these days "the right fit" is often a nice way of saying "the most selective and well-known college my kid can possibly get into." Surreptitiously, the parents on the campus tours compare stats: GPAs, test scores, how many AP classes did your child take?
are likely to thrive wherever they go. 'How College Affects Students,'
a 2005 book that reviewed three decades of related research, found that
a university's prestige and selectivity had little consistent impact on
teaching quality, student learning and other factors."
The book costs a whopping $55 on Amazon.com, but in the long run that may be a better investment than $50,000 a year for college
Nobody called me chicken. Well, not exactly. But after my newspaper column this week, in which I revealed my fear of not being up to the task of making a panorama sugar egg, I received a number of emails from readers like the following note from Melinda, who encouraged me to take the plunge before next Easter:
"I made them every year for a while when my daughters were small. It really does take just an egg mold, sugar and water--you just have to get the mix of sugar and water right, and scoop out the inside at the right time. I think the cutest eggs we ever did had tiny animals from "The Lion King" inside them from one of those very small playsets they sell (we used to call it the 'Lion King Polly Pocket'). When you peeped into the egg you saw Mufasa or Simba standing on green-tinted coconut grass. Not very seasonally appropriate but the kids loved them!"
As for the amazing egg pictured above it was made by
Claudine, a reader whose jpegs offer proof that it can be done. Some of her other handiwork is below, including this inside view (below left) and the bouquet of violets (right), which required a very steady hand.
A reader has reminded me I forgot to mention The Cherry Ames Page, an incredible site loaded with facts and trivia gleaned from a close reading of Cherry books. If you're a fan, you'll have fun here. You'll learn, for instance, about "clues" from her childhood that may explain Cherry's motivation to become a nurse: "When they were in the third grade, one of Cherry's classmates had epileptic seizures. Cherry's class at school also included students who had hives. It is impossible to say how this early exposure to affliction may have influenced Cherry's eventual career choice."
After my newspaper column about the Cherry Ames novels, I received what seemed like a record number of emails from readers who also remembered and loved the WWII nursing heroine from childhood.
Some wrote to say that Cherry's adventures inspired their career choices: "Those books did shape a lot of my beliefs in what I could accomplish as a woman. I was born in 1948, and am now a professor of Electrical Engineering, Sadly, I had no daughter to leave the books to, but they are still on my shelves, and I cherish them. I try to inspire my own female students in the way that a fictional character inspired me."
Another reader tipped me to a real-life nurse's blog that compares actual nursing-school experiences to those described in nurse books.
A third wrote to say that girls weren't the only readers charmed by intrepid female heroines: "Your story reminded me so much of furtively reading my sister's Nancy Drew books. I worried whether boys were permitted to read books with girls as the hero!"
The publisher of Free Public Domain E-Books in GoldenArk's School Reader Catalog wrote to ask if I knew of any K-12 stories in the public domain that were as inspirational as the Cherry Ames series. "If so, we can can publish them in our School Reader catalog." So I'm asking for suggestions. Please email me.
"On the last day of April, 1849 we began our journey to California." Sarah Royce set off from Iowa in a covered wagon with her husband and two-year-old daughter and kept a journal that described various encounters over the next few months with quicksand, stampedes, cholera and wrong turns in the desert that left the water supply very, very low.
"When my little one, from the wagon behind, called out, 'Mamma, I want a drink,' -- I stopped, gave her some, noted that there were but a few swallows left, then mechanically pressed onward again, alone, repeating, over and over, the words, 'Let me not see the death of the child.' "
Sarah Royce's private recollections became public because after she made it to California she gave birth to a boy who grew up to head back East to become known as "the most distinguished intellectual that frontier California had produced." Soon after Josiah Royce went to Harvard as a philosophy lecturer, he asked his mother to write down her memories of crossing the country.
I found the result, a reprint of a slim and modest book that the Yale University Press published in 1932 as A Frontier Lady,on a back shelf in the library, mixed in with all the other random books that a local public library has collected over the years and called California history. I can't put it down.
It turns out I'm not the only one who tosses at night, wondering where to find pants that fit and flatter. After my newspaper column on this topic today, I heard from dozens of readers with the same problem. Solutions vary: "$185? Are you out of your mind?" wrote Jan, a thrifty shopper who suggested an alternative to the pricy Vince sneaker pants I bought last week. Jan pays "$20 for Woolrich stretch khakis (also in black and navy) at Work 'n Gear. Simple, durable, fashionably blue-collar."
Another reader (not, one suspects, a regular) wrote, "Dear Ms. Latalla, Ok, your article speaks to the world. But where did you try on those Vince pants? I cannot find them at any of the online sites except in white (yuck.)"
In fact, it looks like all the sites I wrote about have sold out. Do they plan to re-order? I'll update you when I know. UPDATE: Shopbop.com has re-ordered the pants and a Vince spokeswoman said they also are in stock at such offline stores as Heist in Venice, CA (310-450-6531), Valentine’s Too in Austin, TX (512-347-9488) and Theodore in Los Angeles. ALSO: Shopdollyrocker.com has the Vince pants in stock.
My dog Otto was very happy to move to northern California after he found out that dogs in this town are treated like royalty, with water bowls on the sidewalks in front of stores and retrievers in bandannas riding in the passenger seats of convertibles. This town has always been dog-happy, it turns out. A local history I've been reading reveals that upon incorporation a century ago, so many dogs were living here that the founding fathers relied on revenue from dog licenses to run the city while they were trying to devise a property tax system.
He's not what I would call a typically picky eater, but my husband has developed some unusual food aversions in recent years, the most inexplicable being a reluctance to eat pasta five nights out of six.
The virtues of pasta are many: cheap, filling and delicious. Its drawbacks remain a mystery to me. So yesterday, after my husband boarded a plane for a business trip, I rushed out to the market. I decided to fulfill every recent craving with one dish. Here's what I made:
1 bunch broccoli rabe, stems trimmed olive oil 1/2 lb. Italian sweet sausage, casing removed 3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly 1 lb. linguine 1/2 cup bread crumbs, lightly browned salt and pepper to taste
First, blanch the broccoli rabe (I always do this to eliminate bitterness). Then saute it for awhile with the garlic in olive oil over medium low heat. Meanwhile in another skillet, crumble the sausage and brown it over medium heat (to make the smaller bits crispy). In a toaster oven or a small, dry skillet, lightly brown the bread crumbs.
(If this seems like a lot of simultaneous activity, keep in mind that the broccoli rabe is pretty much taking care of itself on one burner, and the bread crumbs will brown in about two minutes. There is actually plenty of downtime during which to fill a pasta pot with water and set it to boil).
After the pasta is cooked and drained, toss it with the broccoli rabe and the sausage. Stir in bread crumbs. Serve immediately.