Real Cooking

It’s a Leonard. I don’t know anything about this certain brand of refrigerator. I’m only aware that I’m now the proud owner of a 1946 model painted a shade of green that falls somewhere between mint and avocado.

But it runs. The bottom part cools and the top freezer keeps ice frozen solid…so far. It doesn’t leak…yet, and it doesn’t make any funny noises…as of now. So I’m happy.

Actually, I’m really excited about this old icebox. We’ve been looking at those little mini refrigerators, the ones that students take to college to stash in their dorm rooms, for about a year now trying to decide if we wanted to spend the money on a fridge for the basement family room.

So when I spotted this old fridge in a corner of Canyon Hills Antiques over in McPherson, my mind just kind of went wild. The price was right and suddenly I had a plan of how an empty corner of our basement could be turned into a funky, little mini kitchen that we could use for entertaining and cool summer suppers.

I should have written a check then and there and put the thing on hold, but I wanted to talk to Keith first before buying an old refrigerator. Even at a modest price, I didn’t want to make an unwise purchase.

I knew it was in good working condition. The ladies at Canyon Hills kept ice and cold drinks in it.

“Runs like a dream,” I was told.

And after talking with my antiquing friend, Becky Lindsay, I was even more eager to bring the thing home with me.

“Even if it quit running and you didn’t want to repair it, you could use it as a storage unit. It’s so cool.” Becky has an eye for stuff like that.

That night, when Keith got home from the field, I laid out my vision. Soon, he was on the bandwagon saying he was in full agreement.

So, now I have a 1946 green refrigerator with a door that features a pull-down handle that clicks to shut, and with a freezer just large enough for a 5-pound bag of ice. I think it’s cute, quaint, a remnant of days gone by.

But once upon a time, it was shiny and new, the latest model shipped from the factory. Sometime, somewhere, someone lugged this same appliance into a kitchen, plugged it in and probably admired the spaciousness, the newness and the modernity of their family’s new refrigerator.

Now that same appliance, mixed with a lot of other castoffs, makeovers and rummage sale finds, will become the focal point of our little kitchen corner.

Just thinking about our basement corner gets me excited about the possibilities for that small space. And it also brings to mind my recent visit to Melissa Bartel’s new spacious, professional kitchen for her business, Panhandlers Catering Co.

What an operation. A few years back, Melissa and I seriously thought about going into the catering business together. But after some careful consideration, I knew that it just wasn’t the time for me to take on such an enterprise.

My kids were getting to the age where they needed me to be available for them on a regular basis for after-school and weekend activities.

Melissa, on the other hand, had passed through those busy years with her kids and was ready to take on more challenges since her youngest child would soon be off to college.

I knew I would love working alongside of Melissa. But when my present job working at the elementary school became available to me, Melissa and I both agreed what should be done.

We came to the same conclusion that this was a “God thing.” I needed to be with the kids-both mine and those I serve at school-while she needed to pursue the dream of building a business.

So, I gladly added my catering client list to hers and went to school. And the rest is history, so to speak. Melissa has garnered a fine reputation, and now, with her newly installed kitchen and business license, things are only going to get bigger and better for her.

Congratulations, Melissa. When the Chamber of Commerce comes to cut the ribbon in front of Panhandlers Catering Co., I, along with your other close friends, will be there to celebrate. And I will still refer any calls I get for catering directly to you.

And who knows? Maybe in five or six years I’ll be finished chasing kids around ball fields, gymnasiums and auditoriums and I might be looking for something to fill my time while the kids are away at college.

And maybe, just maybe, you might be looking for some old, vintage addition to your kitchen. In six years, I’ll be about the same age as my funky, green refrigerator is right now.

And like the old Leonard, I hope I’m in as good condition, still working and free of any leakage or funny noises. We’ll see.

In any event, God bless you at this time of celebration in your life.

* * *

The following recipe came to me through Melissa, who uses this recipe as part of a light supper or luncheon menu. The recipe uses Tony Chachere’s brand of seasoning, which can be found in larger food markets.

When Melissa gave me this recipe, she told me that she has used flour tortillas-thus eliminating the tortilla softening stage with the heated oil-with great success.

Panhandlers Chicken Enchiladas

2 grilled chicken breasts, chopped

1/2 tsp. Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning

1/2 tsp. lemon pepper

1 tbs. butter

1 small yellow onion

1 clove garlic

1 (4.5 oz.) can chopped green chiles

1 (7 oz.) jar green chile/tomatillo salsa

2 cups Monterey Jack cheese

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 tsp. salt

12 corn tortillas

Vegetable oil for softening tortillas

1 chopped tomato

1 bunch green onion tops for garnish

Before grilling, sprinkle chicken breasts with Tony Chachere’s and lemon pepper. Grill six to seven minutes per side over moderate heat or until cooked through. Saute onion in butter until translucent. Add garlic just before onion is totally sautéed.

Combine two cups chopped chicken, onion, garlic, green salsa, chiles and one cup of cheese in a bowl. Mix heavy cream and salt together in another bowl.

Heat 1/2-inch oil in a skillet. Dip each tortilla in the warmed oil until tortilla is just softened enough to be pliable. Dip each tortilla into bowl containing cream and salt, coating each side. Fill each tortilla with chicken mixture.

Roll seam-side down and place in ungreased 9×13-inch baking dish. Pour remaining cream over enchiladas and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Garnish with tomato and green onion.

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