A fine birthday meal

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Yesterday, Monday, would have been my father’s 85th birthday. He died last September, so missing him is still very fresh on my mind.

Tonight, I’m planning to cook one of his favorite dinners — at least part of it.

He did not have a sense of smell after years of working with scene paint in the theater. What we didn’t know then was that could be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease, which is what led to his decline.

He did like textures and and he could still taste sweetness, so here’s the dinner I would make for him on his birthday.

We’ll start with a version of stroganoff that my mother made. She hated cooking, but she always did this well. Somewhere along the line, I started making spinach salads, simple, old-fashioned.

And his favorite dessert was pecan pie, which I tweaked a bit to make it special.

I’m sorry I don’t have photos of the feast. I’m making the stroganoff tonight, and we’re having just plain salad, and no pecan pie, but here’s to Dad.

Poor Man’s Stroganoff

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or ground chuck

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. celery salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4-1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 8-ounce container fresh mushrooms, sliced

12 ounces egg noodles

8 ounces sour cream


In a large non-stick skillet with a lid, begin to brown ground beef over medium high heat and sprinkle the spices all over the meat as you break it up. Leave chunks of ground beef — don’t pulverize it.  Add 1/2 cup water, cover, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, add the sliced mushrooms and stir. You may want to add a little bit more water. Let simmer at least 15 more minutes, until mushrooms have softened, then remove lid and turn up the heat to evaporate remaining water, or pour off what’s in the pan.

Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil and add egg noodles, cooking according to package directions. When noodles are done, drain, return to pot with 1-2 Tbsp. unsalted butter.

With noodles resting in the pot, stir in sour cream. Start with half a small container, then add more to taste. Do not allow to boil, but make sure the mixture is heated through. Serve over egg noodles.

Spinach Salad

1 small bag baby spinach

4 slices bacon, cooked

2 hard-boiled eggs

4 large mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tsp. Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Make dressing. In a small bowl or jar, combine red wine vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper and whisk or shake together. The mustard will help the dressing emulsify.

If you wash the spinach, drain thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Tear into smaller pieces, if desired.  Top with mushrooms, bacon and sliced hard boiled eggs and pass the dressing.

Maple Pecan Pie

3 eggs

1 cup maple syrup

2/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1 tsp. vanilla extract

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

1 pie crust

Set oven to 425 degrees.

Place pie crust in a deep dish glass pie pan; set aside.

Whisk 3 eggs, then add maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla and salt and stir well to combine. Stir in chopped pecans. Pour into pie crust.

Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 350 and bake for 35-40 minutes more until pie is set.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

And raise a glass to him.