The Ekalaka Eagle - Your Community Builder

Cooking in the West


November 13, 2020

Parent teacher conferences are traditionally held at this time of year, but this Covid year many of those conferences will be postponed or held via telephone, Zoom, or Google Meets. The parents of the high achieving kids always show up eager to discuss their child's progress, but the parents that you would really like to meet to give you some insight into their children's behavior are sometimes reluctant to show up. My hat goes off to all of the teachers out there conferencing with parents about their most prized possessions--their children, which is especially important in these crazy Covid times when many households are quarantining or even experiencing positive Covid tests.

Parents might find it difficult to decode tactful teacher talk, but as a really old teacher, I can offer some assistance decoding traditional conference phrases. "Your child is very social" can be translated as your kid never shuts up--he's like the Energizer bunny on speed. "Your child needs to improve his/her time on task" really means that your kid will not get to work, takes frequent self-guided in house field trips to the restroom, and digs in his desk like a badger to avoid getting to work. He distracts everyone in a three room radius, and I am seriously considering referring him to the health nurse about that frequent urination problem.

Decoding teacher talk is also important when reading correspondence from school. Unfortunately, field trips are not happening this year with Covid-19 on the rise, which is sad because field trips are valuable learning experiences and sometimes a nightmare for the teacher and the chaperones. Thinking back over 37 years of field trips, I can really appreciate this essay by Melissa Balmain entitled "Permission Slip (of the Tongue) for the Class Trip." The information in parentheses indicates how to read between the lines of teacher correspondence.

“Dear Parent/Guardian:

Mrs. Kenney's class trip to the fire station is (why Miss Kenney is dreading) Tuesday morning. The children will walk there (and/or hop, skip, and lie on the sidewalk sobbing that it wasn't Sienna's turn to be door holder). If you'd like to chaperone (for the love of God) please tell Mrs. Kenney.

At the fire station, Captain Joe (or whoever draws the short straw) will teach the class fire safety basics. (Prepare to hear your child bellow, "Stop, drop, and roll" 36 times a day as well as wake you regularly at 2 a.m. convinced he/she smells smoke.) The captain will hand out posters, pamphlets, and coloring books (that, ironically, will make your home even more flammable).

After punch and candy provided (with remarkably poor timing) by the station, the children will get to aim a running fire hose (usually at Miss Kenney), and meet the firehouse dog (and pull his tail). Then Mrs. Kenney will take (two extra-strength Excedrin and a Prozac) a group picture. Along with the permission form below, please send $2.00 to cover the cost of post-field trip refreshments (for Mrs. Kenney who will be doing Jell-O shots the moment school lets out).


Mrs. Patty (rhymes with batty) Kenney”

I would like to share recipes this week from one of my favorite cookbooks in my collection, "100 Years of Recipes" a cookbook compiled by the Big Timber Women's Club. Thanks, Lisa Wagner, Suzanne Wilson, and Kimberli McCullough for sharing these favorites. Kimberli, our FCS teacher at Sweet Grass County High School, was recently named Montana FCS Teacher of the Year for 2020 by her colleagues. Congratulations, Kimberli!

Lisa Wagner's Chicken Mexican Casserole:

4-5 chicken breasts, cut in small pieces

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can green chilies

1 can black olives

1 can mushrooms (stems and pieces)

3/4 lb. mozzarella cheese

3/4 lb. Monterey jack cheese

1 pkg. flour tortillas cut in strips

Mix chicken, soups, chilies, black olives, and mushrooms. Layer like lasagne in butter pan: tortillas, meat mixture, cheese. Sprinkles chopped olives on top. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Suzanne Wilson's Onion Pie:

25+saltine crackers, crumbled

1/2 C. melted butter

3 very thinly sliced onions


5 beaten eggs

2 C. milk

1 C. grated cheese

salt and pepper

Combine crackers and melted butter, pack into a flat casserole pie plate. Saute onions in butter. Place over "crust." Mix eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour over onions. Top with cheese. Bake 35 minutes at 325 degrees.

Kimberli McCullough's Best Chocolate Sheet Cake:

For the cake:

2 C. flour

2 C. sugar

1/4 t. salt

4 T. (heaping) cocoa

2 sticks butter

1 C. boiling water

1/2 C. buttermilk

2 whole beaten eggs

1 t. baking soda

1 t. vanilla

For frosting:

1/2 C. finely chopped pecans

1 3/4 stick butter

4 T. (heaping) cocoa

6 T. milk

1 t. vanilla

1 pound (minus 1/2 C.) powdered sugar

Cake: In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa. Stir together. Add boiling water and allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds. Turn off heat. Pour over the flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool. In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. STir buttermilk mixture into the butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into a sheet cake pan (19 X 13) and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Frosting: While the cake is baking, make the icing. Chop pecans finely. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add cocoa. Stir to combine, then turn off heat. Add the milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir together. Add pecans, stir together, and pour over warm cake. Cut into squares, eat, and totally wig out over the fact that you've just made the best chocolate sheet cake. Ever!


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