Lemon Lush

Lemon Lush I made Saturday.

We had friends over for dinner this weekend. My husband suggested I make lemon lush for dessert. I usually make it during Christmas week.

It’s an old recipe that I discovered in the 1980s when I worked in public relations for the Bob Hope Classic golf tournament. When the tournament was over, we’d have potluck in our meeting room for staff and volunteers. One of the wealthy lady volunteers brought in lemon lush and it was a huge hit. I asked her for the recipe. So many people asked for it that she used the copy machine and handed them to us.

I kept that recipe in my old Betty Crocker cookbook until it faded. There are tons of versions online. The one posted below is closest to the recipe that faded beyond recognition. (Tip: you can use pecans instead of walnuts.)

Our friends loved lemon lush and asked for the recipe. I’m embarrassed to share it because it’s a Jello Pudding and Cool Whip recipe. But it tastes so delicious. When I’ve shared the recipe before, people look disappointed. It’s verging on embarrassment to share this with my new Arizona friends! But it tastes so good — I won’t stop making it. Maybe I should throw in some fresh ingredients like lemon zest or fresh lemon juice?

I think it must be a recipe from the 1970s.

LEMON LUSH

Printed from COOKS.COMhttps://cooks.com/kb8i85fz


Crust:

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups ground walnuts
1 1/2 sticks of butter

Filling:

8 oz cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup of Cool Whip

Topping:

2 small packages instant lemon pudding
3 cups cold milk

Crust:

Using a pastry cutter, combine ingredients for crust and pat into the bottom of 9×13 pan.

Bake at 325°F for 30 minutes. Let cool.

Filling:

Mix well and spread over cool baked crust. Refrigerate.

Topping:

Mix packages of lemon pudding with 3 cups of cold milk. Once mixture has thickened, pour over filling.

Top off with more Cool Whip and nuts, if desired.

https://www.cooks.com/rec/doc/prt/0,1613,129181-245195,00.html

What recipe do you have that is super easy but so delicious?

Cancel Culture and the Four Olds

Cover of Red Scarf Gril

I read Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang this weekend. It’s not the first time I’ve read it, but it’s been ten years since I picked it up.

It’s a Young Adult autobiography from the Cultural Revolution in China. It covers the Red Guard teens who were enforcers of Mao’s dictates. I saw so many parallels with our world today — which isn’t a good thing.

The story opens up with the youth destroying a store sign “Great Prosperity Market” because of the “Four Olds.” Prosperity was no longer seen as a good thing.

“The names of many shops still stank of old culture, so the signs had to be smashed to make way for the coming of new ideas.

Ji-Li Jiang proudly wore her red scarf and dreamed to be part of the Red Guard when she was older. Unfortunately, her family was black-listed because her grandfather — who died when her dad was seven — was a landlord. It didn’t matter that she had never met her grandfather and the family had gone through desperate times. A landlord was one of the worst things anyone could be. The ancestors of the landlord were marked for life.

Here’s an excerpt about the Four Olds from the online Britannica:

When Mao formally launched the Cultural Revolution in August 1966, he had already shut down the schools. During the following months, he encouraged the Red Guards to attack all traditional values and “bourgeois” things and to put CCP officials to the test by publicly criticizing them. These attacks were known at the time as struggles against the Four Olds (i.e., old ideas, customs, culture, and habits of mind), and the movement quickly escalated to committing outrages. Many elderly people and intellectuals were physically abused, and many died. Nonetheless, Mao believed that this mobilization of urban youths would be beneficial for them and that the CCP cadres they attacked would be better for the experience.

https://www.britannica.com/place/China/Economic-policy-changes

It’s an excellent book and a quick read. What I found so eye-opening was how it showed cancel culture on steroids. Soon, nobody was safe. Everybody was being turned in. The former party leaders in the community were found to have some fault of Four Olds and they were treated as badly as Ji-Li Jian’s landlord family.

What are your thoughts about carrying the faults of our past generations?

Do you have any good books to recommend?

What I miss about California

Huevos Rancheros

“Let’s go out for Mexican food for breakfast,” my husband suggested yesterday.

I had heard about a good Mexican restaurant in Phoenix from a neighbor. But it was a good 45 minute drive. Seemed a bit much to drive an hour and a half round trip for breakfast.

We talked it over and decided to try something close to home. I looked up all the Mexican restaurants in the area and only one had huevos ranchero (which I order) and machaca (my husband’s order.)

I called and the phone rang and rang. I looked online and saw you could order for pickup. I placed the order and my husband drove to pick it up.

He came back empty-handed and said the restaurant was closed. In the meantime, our daughter had called and I told her we couldn’t find good Mexican food around us.

“Don’t you have a Filiberto’s?” she asked.

She lived in Tempe for one year and had one around the corner from her house.

I found one 15 miles away from us. I called and called. They didn’t answer the phone. We decided to drive and place our order. We didn’t care to eat inside because it smelled funny to us. By the time we got home with our breakfast, more than and hour and a half had passed. We could have driven to the place in Phoenix!

In California we had great Mexican food everywhere. My favorite was El Gallito. I miss it. It closed a few years before we moved. There were many small mom and pop Mexican restaurants and we found several we’d go to all the time after our El Gallito days were over.

I wrote about El Gallito and comfort food HERE.

The breakfast was good, but not great. The eggs, beans and rice were good, but there was no sauce. I’ve never had “dry” huevos rancheros before.

I think we could make a fortune opening a Mexican restaurant in our area.

What’s your go to comfort food? Do you have good Mexican food where you live? What are the best restaurants in your area?

What odd foods did you grow up with?

oxtail soup on the stove
My mom cooked oxtail soup. Now it’s one of my specialties. I cooked these two pots of soup for Christmas week when we had our son’s girlfriend’s family stay with us.

My mother had a few recipes that I couldn’t stomach. Mom loved the odd cuts of meat (like organs) and learned how to cook them from her mother and grandmother. I don’t remember many of our neighborhood moms cooking the same things.

I liked her chicken hearts that were dusted in flour and fried. But I passed on gizzards.

Beef tongue was a hard pass.

Mom’s beef heart I could handle. She’d stuff the heart and bake it in the oven. Then she sliced it and I’d have a thin ring of heart around delicious stuffing.

The oxtail soup I shied away from until I hit junior high. Then I discovered oxtails were the most tender delicious meat I’d ever eaten and the broth was rich but so flavorful. Years later, I made oxtail soup for my “at the time boyfriend.” I overheard him telling a friend that he had to marry me because of my oxtail soup.

“How can she make something so amazing out of !!#!??”

I discovered this recipe in one of my great-grandmother’s cookbooks that she published in the early 1900s and sold to Ladies’ church auxiliaries across the country. It’s my dream to bring the little cookbooks back to life. Great-grandmother Nellie’s recipe is not how I cook oxtail soup, but it’s the same general principle.

My dad’s side of the family had some oddball dishes too. Christmas meant Lutefisk and fish head stew. I could not get myself to stop staring at the eyeballs staring up at me from the stew. It definitely killed my appetite.

If you haven’t heard of Lutefisk this is from Wikipedia:

Lutefisk is prepared as a seafood dish of several Nordic countries. It is traditionally part of the Christmas feast; Norwegian julebord and Swedish julbord, as well as the similar Finnish joulupöytä.

 Finnishlipeäkala [ˈlipeæˌkɑlɑ]; literally “lye fish”) is dried whitefish (normally cod, but ling and burbot are also used). It is made from aged stockfish (air-dried whitefish), or dried and salted cod, pickled in lye. It is gelatinous in texture after being rehydrated for days prior to eating.

Besides the recipes I mentioned, my mom also served us canned Chef Boyardee ravioli, Swanson’s TV dinners, Space Food Sticks and Tang.

What are some of the foods you grew up with? Did your family cook anything odd?

How long would you wait for pizza? Hint: It’s Cheese Board.

Organic early girl tomato, onion, feta, mozzarella, garlic olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley and the cilantro,  jalapeño sauce to dip or pour on a slice.

One of the highlights of visiting my kids in Berkeley is pizza at The Cheese Board Collective. This place opened in the Gourmet Ghetto more than 50 years ago and has a line every single day it’s open. It’s incredible. They make one type of pizza per day. Period. You can order one full pie or half a pie. If you want to order ahead — the minimum is eight pies. The staff is cooking as fast as humanly possible, pizza coming in and out of the oven into boxes and out the door. They’re only open for hot-out-of-the-oven pizza from 5 to 8 p.m. Often, they close sooner than 8 p.m. when they run out.

The only issue we had with the visit to Cheese Board this past weekend was my husband. He’s not a stand in line and wait kind of guy. Usually one of my kids will do that and bring the pizza to their apartment, where we’ll devour it. My son’s girlfriend was working, my daughter was also working, so my son suggested we go to the restaurant and eat.

Line around the corner down the street for pizza.
Waiting in line for pizza. Many people in line enjoyed a glass of wine that they brought for their groups.

My son called and said, “Dad’s going to freak. Don’t rush over here.” Cheese Board was located between our airbnb and our son’s apartment, an easy half mile walk for us.

When we arrived, our son was halfway through the three- or four-block line, 25 minutes in. My husband said, “Let’s go somewhere else.”

“Don’t you want to stand and talk to your son?” Our son countered.

So we stood, talked and people watched. It’s quite an experience and the end result is sheer deliciousness.

Line down the street for Cheese Board.
Looking down the street.
Cheese Board, Gourmet Ghetto
They let only a few people in to the register at a time due to COVID. Eating is out in front at a few tables and benches or take out at your own home.
In front of the Cheese Board store.
Turning the corner onto the final block, these people are almost there!
Cheese board outdoor dining.
People sitting and standing outside to eat “at the restaurant.”
Memorial to Cheese Board Founder Elizabeth Valoma.
A memorial to the founder. The Cheese Board is a collective and there are no employees, only owners.
Photo of Elizabeth Valoma.
A photograph of the founder.

I got a call from my daughter on her way home from work. “There’s no pizza left, right?”

How long would you wait in line at a restaurant? How long would you wait for a slice of pizza? Do you have restaurants in your area that have a following like this?

What’s Your Favorite Comfort Food?

oxtail soup

My mom’s recipe of oxtail soup. This is the batch I made for Christmas 2019.

With all the crazy stuff going on, I feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster. We have a divided country and no matter what side you’re on, you’re probably feeling unsettled, angry and distraught.

Add that to months of being locked down due to a global pandemic, this has been a strange time indeed. Then this year we sold our home of 28 years and packed up and left within 30 days to a new state. So much upheaval in my life. So what makes me feel good? Reading beach novels by Elin Hilderbrand in the sunny backyard, watching quail, walking, hiking, having my cat jump into my lap, praying and yes — thinking about cooking comfort food.

Here are two of my all-time favorite comfort foods:

I used to make chicken and dumplings from the recipe on the Bisquick box. My mom cooked it when I was a child and I’m sure besides the warm broth, tender chicken and butter melting off the dumplings, that’s why it’s a favorite. I haven’t made it in years though because my kids got tired of it — and my husband thought the dumplings were gross. But, I think it might be time to give it a whirl.

old fashioned chicken and dumplings

Photo from the chicken and dumpling recipe at Stay at Home Chef

Click here for the Bisquick chicken and dumplings recipe brought to you by Betty Crocker. Here’s another great recipe for old fashioned chicken and dumplings from scratch with more detail by The Stay at Home Chef.

Another one of my favorite comfort foods is oxtail soup. That’s another thing my mom cooked when I was young. It took me years to not turn up my nose at oxtails. I couldn’t get my mind around them as a kid. My husband told his friends that he married me because of my oxtail soup. “If she can cook something so delicious out of that — I had to marry her.”

oxtail soup cooking

Browning the oxtails first is one of the keys. Also, letting the soup cool and removing the fat is essential.

My kids didn’t like oxtail soup when they were young, either. But now that they’re young adults they love it. It’s also become quite trendy in restaurants. Maybe that helped. Christmas 2019, I had to order a mass amount of oxtails at several grocery stores. We were hosting the kids and my son’s girlfriend’s family of seven siblings and mom — many of them are hungry athletes. I cooked several large pots of my oxtail soup so it would be ready when they arrived. It was all gone before the night was through.

My oxtail soup recipe is not written down and takes a feel based on experience. Here’s my attempt:

Season oxtails with salt and pepper. Brown the oxtails in oil and place them on a platter with paper towels to absorb fat. Place them in large pot with lots of garlic and broth. Simmer for several hours, adding water or broth to cover, and take off the heat before they are tender. Put in the fridge and leave overnight. The fat will rise to the top and harden, making it easy to remove with a spoon the next day.

Add vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, or whatever you like and simmer until the oxtails and vegetables are tender.

The feel part comes in to not overcook or undercook the oxtails so they are tender and start to fall off the bone.

family portrait outside

Our Christmas crew from 2018 and 2019.

My daughter had a class in college where they were asked to share their comfort foods. I was surprised when she told me her comfort food was take-out machaca from Las Casuelas the Original! Not my home cooking!

What are your favorite comfort foods and do you cook them yourself or order from restaurants? Would you share recipes?

Food for Thought and Recovery

Back in the pool is my New Year’s Resolution. I’ve swam three days a week for two whole weeks and we’re not even into the second week of the year! I noticed, however, that I am not recovering. I feel tired afterwards and the next day, too. My daughter told me, “Make sure you drink some chocolate milk as soon as you get home!” Well, I forgot and after I showered and got dressed, I headed off to the grocery store, feeling weak and famished. “Shoot, I forgot the chocolate milk.” There was a Halloween-sized bag of M&Ms in the car, not quite chocolate milk, but I downed them thinking they’d be better than nothing. 

That incident reminded me of a story I wrote about nutrition and recovery a couple years ago:

 

img_6095

Nutella stuffed 1/2 cronuts. Food for thought?

I called one of my mentor swim moms, who has advised me all along the way from my son’s first swim meet in 2001 to navigating college recruiting years later. She worked as a dietitian years ago, and I wanted her input for a SwimSwam article about what kids should eat at meets. I asked a half dozen more moms what their kids ate at meets because we happened to be at UCLA and USC swim meets watching our Utah kids compete.

After I wrote that story, that you can read here, I thought, “Yikes! I do not practice what I preach!” I’m finding it harder to recover after a workout and perhaps if I looked at my own diet, I would feel stronger.

I’m swimming consistently three days a week, and after I swim I get so hungry. I have a tendency to believe that because I made it through a tiring swim practice, that I can eat whatever I want. Most often, I make terrible choices including a #1 meal at Taco Bell (taco and burrito supreme) or fried chicken! Seriously, what am I doing to myself?

img_6054

At USC for a swim meet.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s okay to eat unhealthy now and then. But this has turned into a habit to reward myself after a healthy workout with fattening food that lacks much in nutritional value! It’s totally unproductive.

I discussed this with another mom via text. This mom is crazily fit and works out for hours every day. She had some great tips that I’m incorporating into my daily life that she promised would improve my muscle recovery.

AVOID SUGAR AND CARB LOADING

“I’ve actually been learning to fuel my body with fat. However, I’m not a swimmer so I would not begin to offer advice. But, after doing research I started limiting my carbs to less than 50g/day and saving them until dinner. During the day, I fuel my body with healthy fats. I’ve noticed a huge difference! Swimmers need a lot of energy but they won’t get any energy from sugar.”

PLAN AHEAD

“Have a plan. Know what you’re going to snack on after practice. Prepare eggs and a meat before you leave for practice so that it’s ready when you get home and you won’t eat the ‘worst stuff.’ Plus, the protein in the eggs will assist in muscle recovery. Or have peanut butter on a rice cake. But the important thing is to have it prepared so you can grab it right away.”

HOW ARE YOU FUELING YOUR BODY?

“Also, when eating your snacks, look at it and determine how you are fueling your body for recovery and the next day’s workout. That’s what keeps me honest with myself.”

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At my first meet a year ago with my good friend and fellow swim mom, Linda.

Yesterday, after practice I had a half banana and a hard boiled egg when I walked through the kitchen door. I was able to make it through until dinner without fast or fried food and I feel less sluggish and tired today. I’m curious to see how this plan works for me and if I’ll feel stronger after a few days. After all, I have my own swim meet coming up this month!  I’ll let you know how it goes.

What do you eat after working out?

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At UCLA last Friday.