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Bless the heart of Bill Redding, who stood up at the public hearing on rezoning lots for parking spaces east of ECU...

Dad’s Skillet Dinner keeps the kids going when Mom’s not around

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The ingredients for Skillet Dinner are simple, tasty and effective.

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By Mark Rutledge

Saturday, June 9, 2018

My wife is a fantastic cook. She's done so well over the years at providing a wide variety of meals for our daughters that they expect the same kind of service even when she’s away from home.

It is during those lean-table times when my children will actually call upon dear old Dad to come through and whip up one of his tried-and-true recipes.

I know one or two dads who are the primary cooks for their families. The rest of us have three or four go-to meals. Two of mine are regulars on the weekend breakfast circuit. The other is a surefire cleaner-outer.

My buddy Joe Talbert taught me the secrets to making good pancakes: Always buy the cheap brand that requires only water. The mix that calls for an egg never turns out good. And that recipe printed on the Bisquick box ought to be against the law.

Leave the batter completely wet but not quite soupy. Let it stand for about 10 minutes and cook on a buttered griddle.

My girls are still taking chocolate chips in their pancakes. For Sharon and me, its blueberries, apple slices, and toasted pecans sprinkled with cinnamon. They are to die for.

Speaking of near-death experiences, I learned to cook oatmeal about 10 years ago during a bout with high cholesterol. My numbers came down, but it was the fish oil that did it, not the oatmeal. I could never cut back on the heaping chunk of butter that allows oatmeal to become magical.

Another secret to great oatmeal is using only the old-fashioned Quaker brand. You can save about a dollar with a lesser brand, but don't. One can get away with buying generic sugar. Oatmeal is different.

While the oatmeal simmers on the stove, I add a pinch of salt, dried cranberries, and apple slices, stirring often. At slightly soupy, pour it into a bowl over a tablespoon of brown sugar and a chunk of real butter. Add fresh blueberries, toasted pecans, and a heavy sprinkle of cinnamon.

If you wash down my oatmeal with anything other than strong, black coffee, you’re making a mistake.

My signature supper dish is called Skillet Dinner. It has healing qualities and the girls love it. Their mother has never added it to her list of family meals, but that's OK. Jealousy is a bitter ingredient.

I learned to cook Skillet Dinner when I moved out of my own mother’s house. I wasn’t sure my digestive system would stand the shock of being forced to function without it.

Start by browning close to a pound and a half of ground round or chuck with salt, pepper, and a small, sweet onion, diced. Drain the grease and pour in a can of stewed tomatoes and two cans of Bush's Best Original Baked Beans. There are other brands, but (see rules of oatmeal above).

Add two tablespoons of regular mustard, then stir and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Serve with hot sauce and saltine crackers on the side.

You will want a second helping, but be careful. Mothers of an earlier generation would give their children a weekly dose of castor oil just to keep them “active.” My mom served Skillet Dinner.

It’s a blast from the past that tastes good going down.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.

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