Many years ago, while living and working in northern New Jersey, more than an hour away from my parents, I was lucky enough to be "adopted" by my Aunt Gerry, who at the time was married to my mother's brother, and their children.
My husband was a full-time student who also worked a full-time job. I would have been alone a lot if it weren't for my Aunt Gerry, who lived just a few miles away, in Teaneck.
I spent so much time there, my uncle may have begun to think he had six kids instead of five. I ate dinner there two to three times a week at least.
Years later, after having raised several of my own children, I realize it couldn't have been easy to feed another mouth, but my aunt never made me feel unwelcome or like I was any type of burden.
I have fond memories of sitting at her dining room table after dinner, and her with her ever-present cup of tea and a pack of Virginia Slims.
I remember one night, after I had achieved a special milestone, I arrived at her house and she not only had dinner waiting, she also had a celebration, complete with a congratulatory cake.
I still have the picture she took of me that night, cutting the cake, wearing a huge smile. I also remember fondly that the smile was not so much about what I had done, but about her celebrating me for it.
Like my mother, Aunt Gerry was a terrific cook; nothing fancy, just simple and delicious. I loved her eggplant parmigiana and her scrambled eggs and potatoes, but alas, I have no recipe for either.
I do, however, have recipes for two of my very favorite of her dishes: Italian Fried Chicken and Noodles and Fruit. I have been making these dishes for my family for years.
In honor of my Aunt Gerry, who passed away earlier this summer, I'm going to share them here. I think she would be pleased.
Italian Fried Chicken
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
One-half cup olive oil
1 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
One-half teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic salt
One-half cup grated cheese
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
In a shallow bowl, pour enough olive oil to coat chicken on both sides, about a half-cup. Combine remaining ingredients in another shallow bowl. Dip the chicken in the olive oil, then dredge in the dry ingredients.
Place the coated chicken pieces on the baking sheet, then cover with another piece of aluminum foil. Cook for one-half hour. Uncover chicken, turn each piece over and cook for another half-hour until cooked through and juices run clear.
Note: You can use bone-in chicken for this recipe. I began making it with the boneless, skinless breasts because my children thought they were eating chicken nuggets.
Noodles and Fruit
1 pound cooked egg noodles
One-half cup sugar
1 small jar apricot or peach preserves (or another fruit if you prefer)
One-quarter pound of butter
1 can sliced fruit
Grease pan well. Mix noodles with the next three ingredients. Dot with butter and top with sliced fruit. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake for one hour at 325 degrees.
For more Comfort & Joy recipes, go to www.tnonline.com/lifestyle/comfort-and-joy .