Sandra Silva uses her culinary creativity to help raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association.
Nothing really seems to stop you, as even in a wheelchair you are planning to attend the local Walk to End Alzheimer’s. How do you do all that you do? I’ve lived in Villa Ventura’s Senior Star apartments for two years now, but I have made so many friends and feel so blessed even with this darn Parkinson’s. I can’t walk at the walk, but I can talk the talk and will be there, taking it in and cheering everyone on.
My grandparents were diagnosed with what they used to call ‘Organic Brain Syndrome’ when I was young, but now I think they had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. I don’t want to see this terrible disease affect any more of my family or friends and I want to help in any way I can to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.
That’s why we’ve also started “Crafts for Alzheimer’s” and hosted a special luncheon to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association, which not only funds research and development, but also provides education and support for those families who have loved ones with this disease.
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You were part of the recent “Recipes Remembered” luncheon, where you shared recipes and stories about food with others. What is it about food that holds so many memories? Everyone has some tradition that is tied to food. If you get people to sit down and eat together, the stories start flowing. I don’t know what it is. You have to eat — we all do. But sharing food isn’t just about surviving, it’s about thriving and connecting with other people. I’m always happy to share Grandma’s Magic Cookie Bars with others.
And what is the story behind this magic? Well, this cookie was handed down to me from my mother, Jo Ann Collins. Originally, it was to be baked as a layered cookie bar, but my mother disregarded the directions and just mixed all the ingredients together. It turned out delicious, and my children ended up calling it Grandma’s Magic Cookie Bars and the name stuck. Sometimes, we refer to it as Grandma’s Cookie.
As part of the luncheon, we also compiled a “Recipes Remembered” cookbook, which gave Villa Ventura residents and staff the opportunity to share their recipes. I also have delicious recipes for chocolate eclairs and monkey bread in the cookbook.
You seem to have a sweet tooth, but you also have a commitment to fresh fruits and vegetables, as evidenced by the community garden you helped spearhead. Yes, well, getting the garden started was a labor of love, but it has been a wonderful thing for our community. We have a number of master gardeners that are residents who really help the plants to thrive. This year we had quite a few tomatoes and when they were ripe, I fried bacon in this kitchen and so many of us enjoyed BLTs together.
The older I get, the more I think happiness is a choice, and you can choose to have something to live for and people to care about. I can’t plant things in the ground because of my wheelchair, but I am happy to help pick the produce, dead-head flowers, feel the sun on my face and enjoy the beauty around me.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. E-mail her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
Residence: Kansas City
Occupation: Former registered nurse
Special cooking interest: Tried-and-true recipes
Family: 3 children and 6 grandchildren
Walk to End Alzheimer’s
Join the 2015 Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Overland Park’s Corporate Woods on Sunday, Oct. 4. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. for the 1- and 3-mile routes.
For more information, go to act.alz.org/goto/villaventura. Donations made to the team will be matched by Villa Ventura.
Grandma’s Magic Cookie Bars
Makes 24 servings
2 cups crushed honey graham crackers
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup butterscotch chips
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Powdered sugar, as desired for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, stir graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut and nuts together.
Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over dry mixture and stir until well combined.
Turn out mixture into the prepared baking dish, smoothing out evenly as you go, but do not press into bottom of pan.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. While still warm, cut into squares and loosen bars from sides of pan. If desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.
Per serving: 182 calories (39 percent from fat), 8 grams total fat (4 grams saturated), 6 milligrams cholesterol, 26 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 78 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.