When I’m preparing a meal, I enjoy thinking about how certain recipes came to be among my personal favorites. So many of mine are all tied up in decades of delicious memories as well as my family background!

That is certainly true of Tomato Basil Bruschetta, Baked Mushroom Chicken, green salad with Berry Vinaigrette and Cheesecake Praline Squares.

Tomato Basil Bruschetta definitely reflects my heritage. I’m part of a large Italian family that celebrates every possible occasion with great food. Bruschetta is a traditional Italian garlic bread that is delightful as an appetizer or an accompaniment to a meal.

I came up with this variation several summers ago, when I had a surplus of ripe garden tomatoes and my husband, Bruce, and I were expecting guests for dinner. They loved the fresh-tasting topping of tomatoes, herbs and cheese.


She Dresses Up Chicken

A delightful entree that goes together quickly, Baked Mushroom Chicken is elegant enough to be company-worthy. I found a recipe in a church cookbook in my collection, then made some changes …and the result was wonderful!

A quick word about my cookbook collection—I stopped counting my books at 1,500! Among them are three cookbooks I have published. These contain recipes I have created or received from friends and relatives.

Although I like to prepare long involved recipes when time allows, I also enjoy producing relatively simple meals like this one. I feel comfortable with it, and it is very popular.


Grandpa’s Salad Girl

As unbelievable as it may sound, I started cooking when I was 5. My maternal grandfather owned three Italian restaurants and kept me perched at his side in the kitchens of his businesses.

My first job was to tear salad greens at one of my grandfather’s restaurants. Early on, I learned that a good salad adds much to a meal and that it’s easy to mix up homemade dressings.

Berry Vinaigrette was created in honor of one of my college professors, who has become a wonderful friend and loves everything raspberry. It has a fruity flavor and a ruby-red color.

I am a retired high school honors English teacher…and have also taught sign language and speed reading. After my retirement, I taught culinary classes at a local college, with my 83-year-old mother as my sous (assistant) instructor. What a great experience it was!

She and my father gave me free rein as a child in our family kitchen. They always ate whatever I cooked (whether it was good or not) and helped to clean up.

Every time I serve Cheesecake Praline Squares, I get requests for the recipe. It began as a recipe I clipped from a magazine…and has evolved into a fabulous dessert. The creamy texture and praline flavors are sure winners.

I love to entertain in any fashion—from casual gatherings to multicourse dinners. Casual for me usually means a dozen or more appetizers served with various beverages…or a soup-and-bread party where I prepare three or four soups and several homemade breads.

I am also a director for a large community credit union and for years served as a director and president of a national antique car club. I met Bruce, a widely known Model T expert, through the club. We were married in 1991 and have a 1923 Model T in the garage!

When I have free time, I garden, make fancy hand-dipped chocolates and paint sweatshirts to sell at craft shows.

Our home is the favorite “eating place” for many of our friends and family members. That’s a wonderful compliment! So I always have enthusiastic tasters for new recipes…or tried-and-true ones like those that make up my favorite meal. I hope you’ll enjoy it soon.

Barbara’s Salad Tips

Field Editor Barbara McCalley
  • To keep oil and vinegar from separating in your homemade salad dressing, add a little Dijon mustard. It aids in the emulsion.
  • Wash and dry salad greens the day before serving. I don’t have a salad spinner and use this simple method instead: Shake excess water off greens and put them in a clean plastic bag with a sheet or two of paper toweling. Close the bag and whirl it around like a big windmill. Works just great!
  • Always break up lettuce into bite-size pieces by hand. The edges will tend to darken if you cut the lettuce with a metal knife.