A storm was about to break as I turned down the tree-lined street looking for the Kusko residence. As I walked up the driveway I encountered a handyman, who directed me to the front door. Joanne Kusko greeted me. She showed me into a charming and gracious living room.
The Kuskos lived in this house for 25 years. They are the parents of four daughters. There are seven grandchildren - two boys and five girls. If I recall correctly they range in age from two to 14.
For the last seven years Joanne has been the Director of Youth Religious Education. She heads the religious training for all Catholic children at St. Ann's Church that attend public school. A project of hers that I found very interesting is for three, four and five year olds, "mini church." It teaches the kids about what goes on at church, so they are ready when the time comes for the real thing
Joanne and I discuss how some things don't change. Years ago, most of the ladies that attended daily mass would stand on the corner of Main and Third Avenue and chat for quite a long time or they would go to Agnes Howard's house on Buchanan Street for coffee. Today, I learned they all pile into two cars and go to McDonald's for their coffee.
The handyman I mentioned above turned out to be Paul Kusko. He is the Director of Volunteer Resources at the Norristown State Hospital. His main objective is grant writing and fund raising for the facility. May I add, he is also a good umbrella carrier, as it did start to rain before I departed for home.
Joanne is the oldest of five Doebling children from the west end of Phoenixville. She had two sisters and two brothers. When Joanne was in her teens, her family moved to Meadowbrook Lane. Paul calls her a "Phoenix Villain," of course as a term of endearment.
She and Paul are very clever and came up with the best Christmas gift for their daughters. They did silhouette cuttings of each of their grandchildren. They framed them and presented them to the appropriate parent. I need to get pointers from them for this kind of project. This year Joanne is working on a family cookbook for each of their daughters and their families. Hope I haven't let the cat out of the bag!
The first recipe is named because whenever there is a family dinner or covered dish, they all say to Joanne, "bring the Green Stuff." Fast and easy to make, you can also be a hit when you make it.
1 large package lime gelatin
1 large 8 ounce package cream cheese
1 envelope Dream Whip
1 small can crushed pineapple
Drain pineapple. Make gelatin following the directions on the package for molded salads, using pineapple juice as part of the liquid. Chill gelatin until it starts to thicken. Make Dream Whip and refrigerate. Beat pineapple into cream cheese When gelatin is thickened, blend in cream cheese and pineapple mixture first, followed by Dream Whip using a wire whisk. Pour into a mold and chill for 5 to 6 hours before serving. Unmold according to directions on gelatin package.
Zucchini and Pepper Side Dish
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
4 to 6 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4 pieces
1 medium green pepper, cut into pieces
1 medium red pepper, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
dash of black pepper
2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
Using moderate high heat in a large heavy skillet heat the oil. Add onion and cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until onion is soft, but not brown. Add zucchini, peppers, salt basil, oregano and ground pepper. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often. Add tomatoes and mix well. Cook 10 minutes longer, until vegetables are crisp tender and liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Makes 6 servings.
Joanne often doubles this recipe if she is serving it with her following chicken recipe.
Escaloped Chicken Madeira
3/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
4 pounds boned skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup Madeira wine
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
3 tablespoons butter
1 pound fresh mushrooms
cherry tomatoes and parsley for garnish
To make chicken scaloppini cut each chicken breast into two or three long strips Mix flour, salt and pepper. Dredge chicken scaloppini pieces in flour mixture, shake off excess flour. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the butter over moderately low heat. When melted add 3 or 4 scaloppini pieces and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Remove from pan and arrange in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Repeat with remaining scaloppini pieces, adding more butter to skillet as necessary. When finish preparing scaloppini pieces drain and discard fat in skillet. Add wine, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and scraping the bottom of the skillet loosen brown bits. Add lemon juice and garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes, Until liquid boils and looks syrupy. Pour over scaloppini.
Add 3 tablespoons butter to skill and melt over low heat. Add mushrooms and cook 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are soft and moisture has evaporated, spoon over scaloppini. Cover dish tightly with foil. At this point you can refrigerate the foil wrapped baking dish for up to 24 hours before baking. Place dish in oven; turn oven onto 350 degrees. Bake 40 to 50 minute, until very hot. Garnish with cherry tomatoes and parsley just before serving. Makes 12 servings.
Write to me at Neighborhood Kitchens, P.O. Box 1660, Norristown, PA 19404.
Life is like a celebration, enjoy it.