Cooks’ Exchange: Remembering a father’s favorite meals –


It’s been 24 years since I last saw the glitter in my father’s eyes telling me how much he loved me. Though I was a grandmother at the time, I was still Daddy’s little girl, the one he carried in his arms while skating on cold winter evenings over frozen Tenney Park lagoons, or tucked tightly behind him when our toboggan whizzed over Oscar Mayer ice blocks at Olbrich Park.

When spring arrived, we’d visit Berg Sporting Goods on Atwood Avenue to select hooks, lines and sinkers for my tackle box and a new summer season of fishing together.

Gardening with seeds and annuals purchased from Klein’s on East Washington Avenue and Flagstad’s on Waubesa Street also meant interesting bugs and worms he’d set aside for me to study while turning the soil to plant. I also remember his passion for King Arthur and Knights of the Round Table on Sunday mornings as he read out loud from the funny pages about Prince Valiant with me on his lap.

When autumn arrived, leaves were raked and piled high at the curb to jump in with neighborhood playmates. Thanksgiving meant celebrating with a prayer of thanks for what America gave him as a little immigrant boy who arrived here from Sicily with his parents in 1911. As winter crept in and snow fell, we’d build forts together in the backyard with snow packed in Hill’s Brothers coffee cans. Christmas meant an endless wonder of things to remember forever.

For Daddy, family was most important. Everything he did was approached with love and respect. If I didn’t feel well, he’d leave work during the noon hour to bring me a malted milk from Rennebohm’s.

Spoiled? No. Loved? From the depths of his heart. Daddy was never angry, always happy with an attitude that kept him proud and contented until he was 92 and it was time to say goodbye.

Although he loved spiedini, caponatina, cannoli, cucidati, coconut cream and banana pies, this is what I’d make today if we were celebrating Father’s Day together.

Italian sausage, peppers and onions

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 ½ pounds Italian sausage links

2 tablespoons butter

1 large red bell pepper and 1 large green bell pepper, both sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick strips

1 yellow onion, halved and sliced crosswise, about 2 cups

½ red onion, sliced (3/4 cup)

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

¼ cup white wine

Heat oil in large skillet over moderate heat, then brown sausages, turning, about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and slice.

In these challenging times, our local businesses need your support. Find out how to get food, goods, services and more from those remaining open.

Melt butter in skillet. Add red and green bell peppers, yellow and red onions, garlic, basil and oregano. Stir in wine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until peppers and onions are tender, about 12 minutes. Return sliced sausage to skillet with vegetables. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 10 minutes or until sausage is cooked through.

Serve with Italian bread.

During recent casual conversations with friends and neighbors, cherished memories about fathers also included favorite recipes worthy of sharing.

Jane Allen-Jauch described her father, Dr. John Allen, as being a wonderful father who taught her the importance of family, hard work and perseverance. He’d return home from the clinic about 30 minutes before the 6 o’clock dinner hour that always began with a relish tray. Although he refused to eat leftovers and never liked casseroles, Jane also remembers when her parents had dinner guests, she and her two sisters enjoyed Swanson frozen “TV” dinners as a treat.

Here is Dr. Allen’s favorite meal, jotted down by Jane’s mom and made for special occasions.

Baked chicken breasts in wine sauce

10 chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts (5 whole chicken breasts)

Butter and oil

½ lb. fresh mushrooms

1 ½ cups thinly sliced onions

1 can chicken broth

3/4 – 1 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon thyme

Salt and pepper

Cornstarch and cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Saute mushrooms and onions in butter and oil. Add broth, wine, thyme, salt and pepper and pour over chicken in a casserole dish. Bake, covered for 1 ½ hours. Thicken slightly with cornstarch and cold water.

Paul Rusk’s father, Robert E. Rusk, was born in 1927. If there was a favorite food he enjoyed most during his life, it would have been the scalloped potato recipe from the “Joy of Cooking” cookbook, especially when it was served with pork and lamb chops. He passed away in 1997 during the fundraising campaign for the Warner Park Community Recreation Center. The memorial money received in Madison went to the building fund and the oak tree out front is dedicated to his memory as being a “Lover of Gardening.”

This version of the recipe doesn’t use specific amounts.

Scalloped potatoes and onions

Peel and cut potatoes and onions into very thin slices:

There should be half as many onions as potatoes. Grease a baking dish and place the vegetables in it in alternate layers. Sprinkle layers lightly with flour, salt, paprika and dot them well with butter. Nearly cover the vegetables with milk. Bake them in a 350 degree oven until they are done, for about 1 hour.

Great military memories include John Montzingo and my husband, Dick, being Air Force and Wisconsin Air National Guard fighter pilot buddies for many years. Recently, while discussing decades of flying, foreign and local cuisines became topics of conversation prompting John’s wife, Betsy, to claim that one of John’s favorite delicious meals today happens to be made in the microwave.

John’s quick fix pork chops

4 boneless pork chops

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 package Uncle Ben’s Long Grain & Wild Rice

1 can green beans

1 small can of mushrooms, stems and pieces

1 can sliced water chestnuts

¾ cup soup can of water

Additional spices to taste

Spread soup over bottom of a casserole dish that can fit in the microwave. Spread rice and its spice mix on top of soup. Spread beans over rice, mushrooms and water chestnuts over the beans. Add water. Top with 4 pork chops. Salt, if desired. Cover (with lid or Press ‘n Seal). Place in microwave and cook on High for 28 minutes. Remove and let stand for 5 minutes. This can also be made using chicken breasts.

Happy Father’s Day!

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at