Cooking: A long love story

By Pat Gallagher | March 31, 2020

Pat Gallagher

I have enjoyed cooking and reading for most of my life. I don’t cook as much anymore but I have broadened my reading interest to include cookbooks so maybe I am simply cooking vicariously.

My grandmother and my mother were both excellent cooks and that’s where it all began — mostly with desserts and donuts (my grandmother’s specialty). Slumber parties at my house during junior high years most always included late nights in the kitchen making doughnuts.

I learned cooking basics from my mother along with some little twists here and there. For instance, she always included freshly brewed coffee in her chocolate cake frosting. The sauce recipe for her meatloaf (see accompanying recipe) is one I still use today.

When I was newly married and left college for the big city of Washington, D.C., I really began to enjoy cooking. Social life in the nation’s capital included cocktail parties — martinis were definitely in — and sit-down dinners with friends. I loved to entertain and most of our couple friends did too. I remember those days of shared dinners, recipes, menu ideas and good times. 

When I had children and stayed home to raise them, cooking shows on television were becoming popular. I was a Julia Child addict. Dinner parties became even more complicated and fun. A new pasta machine was a much-used kitchen tool and Italian cookbooks broadened my horizons considerably.  Friends received Irish Soda Bread on St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas cookies baked from my mother’s recipes filled many Christmas tins.  

My spouse was an avid gardener, giving us an abundance of fresh produce. I made sauerkraut from cabbage and cooked Swiss chard and kale long before they were trendy.

Since returning to Kansas, I have gotten to know people who have lived (and eaten) all over the world. As the Wichita Chamber of Commerce’s military liaison, my world is an open door to them. Sitting around the dining room table, sharing a meal and a glass of wine with friends new and old never ceases to make me happy.

What I’ve learned:
You do not need to cook everything from scratch and spend endless hours in the kitchen to have a great evening with friends. Ina Garten, author of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, taught me this. Make one or two items and purchase the rest. An evening with friends is not all about the food – it’s the conversation and the camaraderie that make an evening special. 

Pat Gallagher received the 2019 Tampa Bay Trophy Award, a national award honoring a civilian for sustained service to the community and members of the U.S. Air Force.

Chicken & Italian Sausage Casserole

Pat Gallagher says this dish has been a favorite of friends and families since the 1970s. She serves it with crusty bread and a salad.

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces, or 2-3 breasts and 4-5 thighs, bone in
1 lb. Italian sausage, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 medium potatoes, quartered
4 carrots, quartered
1 onion, cut into wedges
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
½ cup soy sauce
1/3 cup olive oil
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly minced parsley

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pierce chicken and sausage in several places with a fork. Place chicken, sausage, potatoes, carrots and onion into a Dutch oven or roaster. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over contents of roaster.

Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 60 to 90 minutes, basting occasionally, or until dish has started to brown. Remove cover and continue to bake about 15 to 20 minutes or until nicely browned.

Notes: Pat Gallagher prefers to use breasts and thighs with this. If desired, add breasts about 20 minutes into cooking time to help keep them moist. 

Pat’s Mom’s Meatloaf

2 lbs. ground sirloin
1 lb. bulk sausage (Jimmy Dean regular or mild Italian)
2 cups herb seasoned Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix
1/3 cup milk (pour over stuffing mix and let sit for 3-4 minutes)
4 eggs, beaten
1 can (15 oz.) seasoned tomato sauce
½ cup medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend ingredients in order given, mixing a little after each addition. Shape into loaf.
Place two bay leaves atop loaf and cover with mixture of:

6 tablespoons brown sugar
½ cup catsup
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons dry mustard

Bake, uncovered, for 1½ to 2 hours or until done. 

Note: If you use Italian sausage, jarred marinara sauce can be substituted for topping.