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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Reflecting On the Wisdom of the Late Erma Bombeck —It’s Not Too Late

She’s been deceased for over two decades now, but humorist, columnist and cookbook author Erma Bombeck left her mark on many a housewife, as well as other members of the family who may not realize that her influence infiltrated their lives.

She was full of wit and wisdom and had a way of seeing everyday life as an adventure, most always laced with a bit of humor. I remember one of her quotes that became one of my favorites – “Seize the moment. Think of all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

I was reminded of her just this week as I was going through my archives and happened upon  one of her famous works, “If I Had My Life to Live Over, written after she discovered she was dying from cancer in which she penned some impressionable words.

Let’s ponder these words together for the New Year: Thankfully, it’s not too late for most of us. Food is good, but food for thought can often change lives for the better.

“I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day. I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage. I would have talked less and listened more. I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded. I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

“I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth. I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband. I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed. I would have sat on the lawn with my grass stains. I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life. I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

“Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle. When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, ‘Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.’ There would have been more ‘I love yous, more ‘I’m sorrys.’ But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute, look at it and really see it, live it and never give it back.”

Erma Bombeck’s Dip

½ lb. lean ground beef

½ cup each finely chopped onion, coarsely grated American cheese

1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce

1 ½ tsp. chili powder

½ tsp. salt

1 can (8 oz.) pork and beans, mashed

¼ cup chopped black olives

In a nonstick skillet, cook beef and ¼ cup onions for 5 minutes on medium high. Stir often until beef is lightly browned. Stir in sauce, chili powder and salt. Bring to simmer. Stir in beans and simmer 3 – 4 minutes. Turn into heated dish. Sprinkle with cheese, olives and rest of onion. Serve with taco chips.

Erma’s To Die-For Fruit Salad

A bag of spring mix

A handful of sliced or slivered raw almonds

A handful of dried cranberries

1/4 cup feta or goat cheese

1/2 cup chunks of pineapple

1/2 cup chunks of melon

1/2 cup chunks of ripe mango

A small  drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette

Steamed shrimp (optional)

Toss greens, almonds, dried cranberries, and cheese with vinaigrette until just combined. Set aside. Mix fruits together then put on top of the greens. Serve with a big smile.

Erma’s Layered Salad

1 med. size head iceberg lettuce, shredded (about 6 cups)

1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen green peas, thawed slightly

1 can (8 oz.) sliced water chestnuts, drained

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion

1/2 cup thinly sliced celery

2 cups mayonnaise

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tsp. seasoned salt

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

3 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

2 lbs. bacon, cooked crisp, drained and crumbled or bacon bits

2 tomatoes, cut into wedges.

Cover bottom of shallow 3 to 4 qt. baking dish with lettuce. Layer peas, water chestnuts, green onion and celery on top.

Combine mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, sugar, seasoned salt and garlic powder in medium  size bowl. Spread mixture in thin even layer over top of vegetables. Cover tightly with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, sprinkle with eggs, then bacon. Garnish with tomato wedges.

Erma’s Quick Soup

4 chicken breasts

Vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 (15 oz.) cans cream of mushroom soup

2 (15 oz.) cans cream of chicken soup

2 (15 oz.) cans cream of celery soup

2 (15 oz.) cans chicken broth

2 (15 oz.) cans cheddar cheese soup

1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes

4 1/2 oz. green chilies

1 cup salsa

1 tsp. chili powder (to taste)

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

In frying pan, prepare chicken breasts in vegetable oil. Remove when done and chop or shred into bite-sized pieces. In pan/drippings add onion and garlic, saute until translucent. 

In a large pot, mix all soups together, blending until smooth and cooking over medium heat. Add chicken and all other ingredients, continue cooking over low- medium heat for about 30  minutes. Top with cilantro when ready to serve. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.