Recovery goes well at cabin with simple recipes

The delicious and completed tropical date bars, created with a recipe from a June 1978 issue of Sphere magazine.

The ingredients for the ramen noodle and cabbage salad are ready to be mixed together. This salad is better after sitting for a few hours or overnight.

Post surgery, I find the cabin to be the perfect place for recovery.
By : 
Iris Clark Neumann
Food for the Neighborhood

When I told my sister, Beth, I had scheduled major surgery for two days after returning from our California vacation, she commented it was either genius or insane.

I'd tried to make our vacation last as long as possible, weaving it between medical appointments for both my husband and myself. The surgery was needed, but I wanted to be back in action before the farmers market season started.

However, once back home, there was little time to catch up on home stuff before I went for my overnight hospital stay. I washed clothes and visited the Eyota Market four times on the final day under Schumann ownership, which was the day before my surgery.

My fridge supply was sparse when I got home from vacation, but I was able to pick up key items as needed.

I'd imagined being able to do a Rochester shopping trip a few days after getting home from the hospital, but the ride home had felt really jarring.  So when I needed something from Menards, I ordered it online for store pick-up by my husband.

My cooking at home was pretty minimalist and simple. My daughter, Amanda, had come on Thursday to stay until Sunday and had cooked a beef roast dinner the Saturday night I returned home. We had leftovers after she left.

I found a package of ramen noodles, which I used to create the classic cabbage salad. Not having enough cabbage, I substituted cauliflower for part of it and asked my husband to pick up a green pepper. This salad filled in for several meals.

Fridge leftover quesadillas used up the last of a precooked chicken along with veggies and shredded cheese. And a garlic chicken pizza from the Eyota Market, now under new ownership, became another. My grandson, Noah, ground the leftover roast meat with potatoes and onions for me to cook hash for another meal.

Remembering going to the cabin for a stay had been helpful when recovering from my lung surgery a year ago, I suggested we spend the second post surgery week there. Nurse Stephanie from the clinic wasn't so sure, wondering how I would manage pain on the trip. But I knew leaving was the best way to control my urge to start gardening outside, along with other spring projects.

Stephanie reminded me to “take my steps” each day, which did not include walking for exercise until reaching the six-week mark.

The difficult part was finishing various small projects I'd wanted to complete before leaving. One was sewing a quilt top to deliver to the Lutheran church, the Sunday after getting to the cabin.

I tried my best to relieve pain with over-the-counter meds like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, as prescribed on my release. However, I was ready for a narcotic by the time we got home. I'd be good for a while and then not so good, sometimes sick to my stomach.

With my plants watered, quilt top made, clothes washed, some kale planted in a raised planter outside, and clean dishes from the dishwasher put away, I was finally packed and ready to leave. The ride up was not fun, but I spent over $40 at our cheese stop between Durand and Menomonie. How I had missed Eau Galle's wonderful cheese!

Needing to take “steps” halfway resulted in making a grocery stop at an Aldi, located near the highway in Menomonie. I was like a kid in a candy store, grabbing all sorts of fresh produce, plus easy mixes and fun frozen food. With a $90 total, my husband thought I was crazy. No, I was just hungry for good food.

A specially flavored box of pasta and cheese, with a drained can of albacore tuna added at the end, turned into a favorite meal for my husband. The first night we'd simply had a big plate of cheese chunks and veggies with humus dip and crackers.

Did you know there's chocolate cheese? It really tastes like fudge, especially because chopped walnuts are mixed in. This was dessert.

We had enjoyed the variety of dried fruit I'd brought back from California in our suitcases. We had made stops at two primary date growers, Hadleys and Shields. The medjool dates are the best — big, chewy and sweet. They weren't cheap, but $10 here and there for dates rolled in coconut or stuffed with fresh walnuts and rolled in sugar was a special treat. Yum!

Not everyone is a date fan, including my husband. It has been years since I'd been able to buy them at my favorite spot in California, Hadleys, a short drive from where my aunt once lived.

As time has passed, I quit making my mom's date bread and my date and cereal cookies for Christmas. Before vacation I'd gotten a couple boxes of dates from the Eyota Market and used them as the basis for a seedy, chewy, dark chocolate covered bar. Even Dale had liked them. 

I also had to pack whatever recipes I'd be using for my column for our trip to the cabin for my recovery. In flipping through cards in my recipe box, I found one from June 1978, a tropical date bar, found in Sphere magazine. I should make this again, I thought. The recipe also included crushed pineapple, coconut, and oatmeal. I used whole wheat white flour for part of the flour and added an optional powdered sugar glaze.

I also brought along my ramen cabbage salad recipe, which had been handwritten on a tiny piece of notebook paper. Marian had brought it to a family reunion picnic. She and her husband would come and live in a camper while they were back visiting in Minnesota. She cooked simple stuff in her camper kitchen.

This one started with a humble package of ramen noodles, even using the flavor pack in the package.

She recited from memory what she'd included. When I made it a week ago, I felt like it needed a little more flavor and found the answer when checking similar recipes on the internet.

This salad is also a favorite of mine when attending church fellowship diners. I don't know who makes it, but it's always good. It needs time for the crunchy noodles to absorb some of the dressing, which is why I made it this morning for supper tonight.

I'm getting better, but am glad a person only has to have one hysterectomy in their lifetime. I had decided now was better than later when I'm older. There was no cancer and my problem seems to be fixed. I promise to take my “steps” and not go overboard with activities for the next four weeks.

The ramen noodle salad can be made with a bag of pre-cut cabbage greens. The red cabbage and carrots in the mix make it an especially pretty salad (and it's easier than chopping your own).

Ramen Noodle Cabbage Salad

1/2 head cabbage, chopped

1 green pepper, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)

2-3 stalks celery, sliced fine (about 1 cup)

1/4 cup chopped sweet onion or green onion

1 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup salted sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 3-ounce package ramen noodles, with seasoning packet (chicken, oriental, or shrimp favored)

1/2 cup olive or salad oil, including 2 tablespoons sesame oil, if desired

1/4 cup vinegar

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

In a large bowl put the cabbage, green pepper, celery, onions, almonds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds. Use your hands to crunch up the noodles inside the package, before opening it. Open and add noodles to vegetables after removing the flavor packet. Mix together.

In a two-cup liquid measuring cup, measure 2 tablespoons sesame oil, then pour in olive oil until reaching 1/2 cup line. Add the vinegar to the 3/4 cup line and water to the 1 cup line. Measure in the sugar and soy sauce. Sprinkle in the contents of the ramen seasoning package. Use a whisk to combine all the dressing ingredients.

Pour dressing over vegetable, ramen noodle mixture. Mix well and refrigerate over night or several hours before serving. Mix salad together again before serving.


Tropical Date Bars

1 8-ounce package seedless dates, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

1 cup, 8 ounces crushed canned pineapple, with juice

1/2 cup water

1 3/4 cups flour (Optional: 1 cup white whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup all purpose flour)

1 1/2 cups uncooked rolled oats

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup flaked coconut

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup butter

2 eggs, beaten

Combine dates, pineapple and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, oats, sugar, coconut, salt and baking soda in a large bowl. Cut butter into small squares, then add to mixture and cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, using a pastry blender or your hands.

Press 3 1/2 cups of crumb mixture firmly into a greased 13x9-inch cake pan. Spread date mixture over crumb layer. Stir eggs into remaining crumb mixture; spread over filling.

Bake until light brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Optional powder sugar glaze: Pour into a small mixing bowl — 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon melted butter, 2 tablespoons milk and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla. Beat together until lumps disappear. Drizzle over cooled bars.