Working as a medical technologist, Marion Behzad saw her share of grim life and death situations. So when it comes to the home front, especially cooking, she adopts a fun-loving, laid back philosophy.
"This isn't rocket science. There is nothing to be afraid of!" she laughs.
Marion, now retired, loves to cook but explains she began out of necessity to feed four children and her husband. While working full time she chose the path of least resistance, "the fastest and easiest way! I cooked whatever was in the pantry or refrigerator. I didn't have time to go shopping to look for exotic ingredients."
Often, when she was working night shifts, Marion would prepare the family meal ahead of time, so that all they had to do was reheat it. "It was economical and nutritious. I didn't want them going out for fast food."
Marion has an arsenal of shortcuts that she relies on to produce the mouthwatering dishes her friends and family love. Her No. 1 shortcut: leftovers!
"I learned the strangest thing when I married my husband; he wouldn't eat leftovers! So I had to learn how to hide them. A lot of cheese and bread crumbs can disguise anything! I always change them into something else. There's last night's potatoes' showing up in tonight's chicken potpie. My kids will ask, 'what reiteration is this now?'"
Next on the list of shortcuts? Modify. Marion's husband is from Iran and Marion wanted to learn to cook foods from his heritage. She discovered many of the recipes she had collected from his relatives were very detailed and time consuming.
"I modify everything. I don't have time to grow the vegetables in my garden. I buy them frozen," she explains.
Another shortcut is to prepare ingredients ahead of time so that it can be used quickly in a variety of ways.
"I tend to chop things up. I cut meat up in small pieces and freeze them. I cut up fresh vegetables."
She's also learned to keep a well-stocked pantry, but not to fret if something's missing.
"It's got to be in there; if it's not, substitute," she says, "In my recipes you can substitute almost anything."
Marion has enjoyed learning to cook some of her husband's favorite Persian foods.
"It's very interesting how they will combine fruit and meat and spices in totally different ways." Today she shares one she calls Persian Patties. These burger "cutlets" are shaped with ground beef, onion and mashed potatoes and then spiced with cinnamon.
"When I first tried it, I thought, oh-oh what's this? We are used to thinking of cinnamon as a sweet, but it is really a spice and when you put it in a mixture with onions it is actually very peppery, and it is very good for you!"
Another family favorite is Asian Slaw, a salad spun with two types of cabbage, peanuts and cilantro.
Marion discovered the recipe for today's cookie as a teenager. She shares the recipe for sour cream cookies, made from fresh, cake yeast that come out nicely rounded and dotted with preserves, at dailyherald.com/entlife/food.
In retirement, Marion is now able to devote more time to cooking; in fact she plans to post a blog soon called, Family Pantry Cooking. It will share her recipes and her philosophy of the joys of cooking.
"My daughter and I came across a cooking class being held at the Merchandise Mart not long ago. There were all these adults looking so frightened of the pots and pans and knives. I wanted to tell them, you can't make a mistake. It's all edible. Just enjoy it and have fun cooking."