Heart of the Home

Neighbors: What do they mean to you?

Neighbors enjoying coffee

Neighbors and friends are an important part of our lives.

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A Letter From Kate

Dear Readers,

I don't restrict my definition of neighbors just to the people who live next door. In my opinion, a neighbor can be anyone who lives in my town. Sure, I know the people who live next door and the woman across the street, but I feel closer to 'neighbors' such as my friend Nikki, who lives across town, and even some of the people who live in my husband's parents' neighborhood.

And I feel as if I know the woman who owns several cats a few blocks down the street because my daughter insists that we slow down every time we drive by so she can see all of the cats outside. I started waving to the woman so she wouldn't be suspicious of us. Now, she always waves at us. Someday I'll stop and tell her why I drive so slowly past her house.

Things were a bit different when I was growing up. When I was a child, my family knew every family up and down the block. My sister and I were always playing with other neighborhood children, and we spent hours with the girls who lived next door to us on both sides. One of our neighbors even taught me to ride a bike. And when we moved to the country, we were still familiar with most of our neighbors.

Although times have changed, I think it's still important to know one's neighbors. True security is knowing that someone is looking out for you and will notice if something unusual is happening at your home. That person next door might be a new friend. And anyway, who knows when you might need to borrow a cup of sugar?

Kate Marchbanks

Together With God

On the north side of me lives a retired couple, Bud and Jean. Bud likes to call me over to the fence to discuss neighborhood news, and Jean has some of the most beautiful quilts I've ever seen hanging on their backyard clothesline.

On the south side is my neighbor Kim. She likes to bake, and she always brings me extras on the premise that she can't eat it all herself. When she fell in the garden, twisting her ankle, I took her a large stack of magazines to read. That's what neighbors do: help each other, share experiences over fences and enjoy each other's company.

Neighbors, especially those who become friends, add flavor to our lives. I've heard complaints that times have changed so much that the 'sitting on the porches' days are over. I'm a firm believer that those days still exist.

Father, thank You for our neighbors and friends. Bless those who reach out to make friends and help their neighbors. May we always enjoy the pleasure of sitting in porch swings at the end of the day. Keep us a nation of neighbors. Amen.

- D. Susan Rutz

Thoughtful neighbor could win any title

I have always had good neighbors, but the one I have now is the best.

I am 89, and I live alone. My neighbor checks on me regularly. She brings me food several times a week - not leftovers, but part of the meal her family is enjoying as well.

On two occasions after I came home from the hospital, she checked on me every day. Sometimes she comes over just to visit. She never stays long, but she always knows what to do or say.

She is the neighbor of the day, week, month, year or any other time span. She is much younger than I am, but as a neighbor, she can't be beat.

Berne, Ind.

Learned to take her house keys

I shall never forget the good neighbor I had back in 1973.

I had just stepped outside my back door to put out the trash for the next day's pickup. A big gust of wind came rushing through and closed the back door. There I was, with no key to get back in, and the front door was locked as well.

Panic struck me because my 3-year-old daughter was inside, in her playpen. She was thumbing through a catalog, which she loved to do. Frantically, I dashed to my neighbor's, who still drove a car at the time. My husband and I had only one car, and he had driven it to work.

God was with me that day, because my neighbor was home. She drove me to the factory where my husband worked, and they called him to come to the front office. As we dashed home, I wondered what my daughter was doing or if she was crying. Much to our surprise, the blessed little dear was still sitting there thumbing through the catalog, and she never missed me.

My neighbor has moved to many different places, but we still exchange birthday and Christmas gifts and exchange family photos. We like to reminisce about the good old days.

Believe me, I never go outside now without my keys.

Beatrice, Neb.

Willingness to be pleasant makes a good neighbor

Through the years, I have had several wonderful next-door neighbors. Beginning in the college dorm, our next-door roommates shared everything from snacks sent from home to hair curlers and other items that we couldn't go downtown and buy on the spur of the moment.

My roommate and I reciprocated with similar favors whenever we could. Our happy exchanges made college life more bearable during the days when no one had a car or the time and money to catch a couple of buses to reach a store.

When I was first married, we moved to my husband's hometown. I knew no one, and a next-door neighbor's visits kept me from getting lonely, even though she was busy taking care of her handicapped child. Sometimes I sat with him while she ran errands. Once in a while, she would send over a cherry pie or a pan of cinnamon rolls, for which I was always thankful.

After our next move, we had children of our own. I was lucky to have a next-door neighbor who was willing to baby-sit on short notice. In fact, she and her mother often asked me to bring the babies over to play. It was a relief to have a free hour to relax. In turn, I regularly took my neighbor and her mother to a nearby town to shop because they didn't drive.

When our children were grown, we moved to another house. Again, fortune blessed us with a next-door neighbor who looked after our house and fed our pets while we occasionally traveled. Instead of accepting pay for her house-sitting, she would ask for some bulbs and plant slips from our flower garden, which I readily gave her.

Now that I have moved to be near my son, I have a neighbor who looks in on my grandchildren while I teach a computer class. When I return, I have her stay for lunch. We share many laughs about the old days because years ago, she worked for my parents and took care of me when I was small.

In one of his poems, Robert Frost correctly disagrees with a neighbor who says that fences make good neighbors. The willingness to be a pleasant neighbor is what makes a good neighbor.

Salina, Kan.

Collections  - Do you collect coins or stamps? Or maybe you accumulate angels? Or do you gather glassware? Many people enjoy collecting their favorite things. Do you have a collection? What kind of things do you collect? What inspired you to start? Tell us your stories about building a collection. Send your letters to Kate Marchbanks, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265.

A simple ingredient can turn good
dishes into great ones

What qualities turn a good dish into a great dish? If a recipe has family-pleasing flavor and appearance, offers sound nutrition and lower fat, and is easy to make, it should go to the head of the class. If not, that recipe could benefit from a little 'family dinners' homework.

But relax, it's easy. Simply switching to evaporated fat-free milk is a great way to increase nutritional benefits and flavor! If your soup, bread, casserole, main dish or dessert recipes call for refrigerated milk, using evaporated fat-free in place of low-fat or fat-free refrigerated milk means getting twice the calcium and protein, zero fat and a richer taste. One-half cup of evaporated fat-free milk has only 100 calories, yet 35% of the Daily Value of calcium and 25% of the Daily Value of vitamin D.

Your guests will be impressed with this decadent dessert. 

Individual Chocolate Espresso Soufflés 

Nonstick cooking spray
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1/2 cup hot water
3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 can (5 oz.) evaporated fat-free milk
4 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
Powdered sugar

Heat oven to 375°F. Spray eight 6-ounce custard cups with nonstick cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar.

Combine cocoa, water and coffee granules in a medium bowl; stir until smooth.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour; cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Stir in evaporated milk and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Cook, whisking frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Add to cocoa mixture; stir until smooth.

Beat egg whites and salt in a small mixer bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining granulated sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/4 of egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten. Fold in remaining egg whites gently but thoroughly. Pour mixture into prepared cups, filling 3/4 full. Place on a baking sheet.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out moist but not wet. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately. Yields 8 servings.

It takes less than an hour to make this satisfying chowder. 

Shrimp and Corn Chowder

3/4 cup water, divided
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 can (15 to 17 oz.) cream-style corn
1 package (16 oz.) loose-pack frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated fat-free milk
3 low-sodium chicken bouillon cubes
1 package (8 oz.) frozen shrimp, thawed, cooked and peeled
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

Bring 1/4 cup water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add onion and bell pepper; cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until tender.

Add remaining water, corn, evaporated milk and bouillon cubes. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes, or until heated through. Stir in shrimp; cook for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with basil. Yields 4 servings.

Pork tenderloins are spectacular when topped with a tasty sauce.

Pork Tenderloin with Creamy Mustard Sauce

- Nestlé Carnation Milks
SUNDAY DINNER: Pork Tenderloin with Creamy Mustard Sauce is an elegant-looking dish.

1 pound pork tenderloin
Salt and ground black pepper
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 can (5 oz.) evaporated fat-free milk
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 green onions, sliced

Cut pork into 1-inch-thick slices. Place pork between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Flatten to 1/4-inch thickness using meat mallet or rolling pin. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the pork; cook on each side for 2 minutes, or until brown and cooked through. Remove from skillet; set aside and keep warm. Repeat with remaining pork.

Reduce heat to low. Add evaporated milk; stir to loosen brown bits from bottom of skillet. Stir in mustard and green onions. Return pork to skillet. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes (do not boil), or until sauce is slightly thickened, turning pork to coat with sauce. Yields 4 servings.

This delicious cobbler features a sweet-tart fruit topping. 

Apple-Cranberry Cobbler

- Nestlé Carnation Milks
SWEET AND SIMPLE: Topped with chunky fruit, Apple- Cranberry Cobbler is a perfect fall dessert.

1 cup evaporated fat-free OR lowfat 2-percent milk
1 3/4 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter OR margarine, melted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can (21 oz.) apple pie filling
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
3/4 cup hot water
Nondairy fat-free whipped topping, optional

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

Combine milk, flour, sugar, butter, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl; stir until just blended. Spread into prepared baking dish.

Combine apple pie filling and cranberries in a medium bowl; spread evenly over batter. Carefully pour hot water over fruit. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Serve warm with whipped topping, if desired. Yields 12 servings.

Home-cooked comfort foods take
little time to prepare

This fall, you can simplify home-cooked comfort food by keeping the right ingredients in your pantry and some quick, tasty recipes at your fingertips. A supply of versatile, convenient ingredients can play several roles in meal preparation. For example, refrigerated biscuits can be baked fresh for a delicious warm bread to dress up a simple dinner. Or use them as an ingredient with other pantry items to make enticing dinners, sweet or savory sandwiches, and quick snacks.

These delicious recipes provide the hearty warmth of favorite comfort foods, but take little time to prepare, giving you more time to enjoy the best of the season.

This easy dish is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. 

Taco Biscuit Casserole 

- The Pillsbury Company
DELICIOUS: Taco Biscuit Casserole combines all the flavors of a taco in one dish.
1 1/2 pounds lean (at least 80 percent) ground beef
1 package (1.25 oz.) taco seasoning mix
3/4 cup water
1 1/4 cups salsa
1 can (16.3 oz.) large refrigerated biscuits
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend (8 oz.)
Shredded lettuce
Chopped tomatoes
Additional salsa
Sliced ripe olives, drained
Sour cream
Sliced green onions

Heat oven to 375°F.

In a 10-inch skillet, brown beef over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until thoroughly cooked; drain. Stir in taco seasoning mix, water and salsa; heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Separate dough into 8 biscuits. Cut each biscuit into 8 pieces. Add pieces to beef mixture; stir gently. Spoon mixture into an ungreased, 13-by-9-inch pan.

Bake for 18 to 23 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly and biscuits are golden-brown. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake an additional 8 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.

To serve, cut into 8 squares. Top with remaining ingredients. Yields 8 servings.

These cheesy meatballs bites make great appetizers or snacks. 

Meatball Bubble Biscuits 

- The Pillsbury Company
APPETIZING: Meatball Bubble Biscuits are a tasty snack.
1 can (16.3 oz.) large refrigerated biscuits
8 frozen Italian meatballs, cooked, thawed and cut in half (about 5 oz.)
2 sticks (1 oz. each) string cheese, each cut into 8 pieces
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup spaghetti sauce, heated

Heat oven to 375°F.

Separate dough into 8 biscuits. Separate each biscuit into 2 layers. Press each biscuit layer to make a 3-inch circle.

Place 1 meatball half, cut side up, and 1 string cheese piece in the center of each dough circle. Wrap dough around filling; press edges to seal.

Place, seam side down, in a single layer in an ungreased, 8- or 9-inch-round pan. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning and garlic powder.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden-brown and biscuits are no longer doughy in center. Remove from pan. Serve warm with warm spaghetti sauce for dipping. Yields 8 servings.

These tasty puffs hold a mixture of chicken, cheese and barbecue sauce. 

Chicken Biscuit Puffs 

3/4 pound (12 oz.) cubed, cooked chicken
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon instant minced onion OR 1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 can (16.3 oz.) large refrigerated biscuits
1/2 cup (2 oz.) shredded cheddar OR American cheese

Heat oven to 400°F. Lightly spray or grease 8 muffin cups.

In a 10-inch skillet, cook chicken, barbecue sauce, onion and brown sugar, stirring constantly, until hot.

Separate dough into 8 biscuits. Press each to make a 4 to 4 1/2-inch circle. Place 1 biscuit circle in each muffin cup; firmly press in bottom and up sides, forming a 1/4-inch rim. Spoon about 1/4 cup chicken mixture into each biscuit-lined cup. Sprinkle each with cheese.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until edges of biscuits are golden-brown. Cool for 1 minute; remove from pan. Yields 8 servings.

Flaky biscuits top these yummy pot pies. 

Individual Chicken Pot Pies 

1/4 cup butter OR margarine
1/3 cup flour
Dash of pepper
1 can (10.5 oz.) condensed chicken broth
3/4 cup milk
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken OR turkey
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 can (4 oz.) mushroom pieces and stems, drained
1 cup frozen sweet peas
1 cup frozen sliced carrots
1 can (16.3 oz.) large refrigerated biscuits
Additional milk, if desired
Sesame seeds, if desired

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 8 (10 oz.) ramekins, custard cups or large muffin cups.

In a 10-inch skillet, melt butter; stir in flour and pepper. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly, until smooth and bubbly. Gradually stir in broth and milk; cook until mixture boils and thickens, stirring constantly.

Add chicken, onion, mushrooms, peas and carrots; cook until hot and bubbly. Spoon mixture evenly into ramekins.

Separate dough into 8 biscuits. Press each to make a 4 1/2-inch circle. Place biscuit circles on tops of filled ramekins. Cut slits in biscuit tops. Brush biscuit tops with additional milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake for 17 to 20 minutes, or until biscuits are golden-brown and no longer doughy. Yields 8 servings.