From all the treasured recipes she’s collected over the years, it’s impossible for Millie Vickery of Lena, Illinois to narrow them down to one favorite meal. But with spring coming, her dinner of Crusty Roast Leg of Lamb, Springtime Asparagus Medley Cracked Pepper Salad Dressing, Banana Citrus Sorbet and Strawberry-Banana Angel Torte really celebrates the season.
These recipes are among hundreds that she’s included in her “Cooking with Millie” newspaper column over the years and put together in a cookbook with that same title. (Find two more favorites below.)
Millie’s late husband, Eugene “Vic,” wrote 10 books after retiring from his practice, including House Calls: Life of a Country Doctor. He also wrote poems about Millie and her cooking, including this one:
Millie roasted us some pork.
So tender that a gentle fork
Could put it into tasty bites
And quickly set the world to rights.
The mashed potatoes were a dream.
Supplemented with some cream
Cheese and just a hint of flavor
Of onion we could slightly savor.
The lettuce crisp and cool and green
Was very happy to be seen.
Dressed so well and debonair
It gave the meal the freshest flair.
But somewhere in the Preparation,
Much to my sad consternation,
Millie, though a Hoosier cook
Left my taste buds on a hook.
She thought no gravy would she make,
For my corpulence’s sate,
She thought that way she somehow could
Do my health some kind of good.
Now, if you are a Hoosier bred,
You know the saddest words e’er said
Are these: "There isn't any gravy."
It makes a man go join the Navy.
Since I'm an Army man, you see,
It was an awful thing for me.
Luckily, she saw her error
And relieved my taste-buds terror.
She, of course, was hungry. too.
For she’s a Hoosier through and through.
The garlic salt upon the roast
Helped the flavor out the most.
She skimmed the fat clear off the top.
Then drippings stirred without a stop.
Adding flour and milk right there.
And scent of pepper filled the air.
It thickened in a little time,
The flavor simply was sublime.
I put my stomach on alert.
The bread and gravy was dessert!
—Eugene L. Vickery. M.D.(1987)
MILLIE’S HOOSIER PECAN PIE
1 c sugar
2/3 c white corn syrup
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp melted butter
1 c pecans
1 tsp vanilla
Mix all ingredients, put in a 9 in. unbaked pie shell. (I often use frozen ones, but re-crimp them so they look homemade.)
Bake at 350° for about 1 hour or until center of pie is set (silver knife blade comes out clean is a good test.)
Serve with a side scoop of vanilla ice cream. Calories? Who’s counting on Valentine’s Day. Enjoy!
3 8 oz. pkgs cream cheese
4 egg whites
4 Rusks, Zwiebach or Vanilla Wafers, crushed
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Dust bottom of buttered 8- x 3-in. spring form pan with crushed wafers.
Cream well to soften cream cheese (or put in microwave for 30 seconds on HIGH to soften, unwrapped).
Beat egg whites until stiff, blend in sugar and combine with cream cheese. Add vanilla and pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and raise oven temperature to 475°.
Mix 2 cups sour cream with 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp vanilla and spread over top of warm cheesecake. Return to 475° oven and bake 5 minutes longer. REMEMBER–Do not overcook. You want a nice moist cheesecake that will melt in your mouth. Chill at least 2 hours. Serve plain or with a little red raspberry jam, fresh fruit or almonds. Delicious!