RUMFORD – Sylvia Goodman cherishes memories of time spent in the kitchen. “I remember coming home from school on a snowy day to the smells of hot cocoa and popcorn. I grew up in an old farmhouse, and my mom cooked lots of comfort foods,” she recalled.
Goodman was born and raised in New Hampshire but credits her love of cooking to her Amish roots in Indiana. Named for one of her Amish aunts, Goodman shares her Aunt Sylvia’s Great Cake recipes (at left). When Goodman and her family visited extended family in Indiana, they gathered on a Sunday. “All the women would quilt, and the kids would play together outside entertaining themselves with hopscotch and baseball,” Goodman said.
Large gatherings of family and friends with tantalizing smells coming from the kitchen continue to be a priority for Goodman. She and her husband, Dennis, who settled in Maine in 1992, have five grown children and seven grandchildren. After college, Goodman moved from New England to California, where she enjoyed the abundance of “fresh foods everywhere.” She also enjoyed learning Asian and Greek cooking.
“I like to make my own sushi. Whenever I travel back to California, I go to Japanese stores and bring back ingredients,” she said.
Her grandchildren “love to come here and eat,” said Goodman. “We also make cookies together – cutouts for Christmas and Easter, etc… They make a mess, but I don’t care.”
Lending assistance to her children when they cook also is quite common for Goodman. They often call her for recipes, and those who live locally stop by to borrow her pots and pans and spices.
Goodman works as an intensive-care nurse at both the Rumford Hospital and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston. Besides cooking, she enjoys scrapbooking, singing, gardening and fishing.
Aunt Sylvia’s Great Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges, with juice
½ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon orange extract
Mix cake mix, oranges and juice, eggs, oil and extract. Beat until oranges are broken up, and batter is fluffy. Divide among three greased 9-inch pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. When cool, frost with icing (recipe below) between layers and on sides and top. Note: I like to garnish the cake with mandarin segments in a flower form, with a few mint leaves, on top of the cake. It makes for a cool and delicious summer dessert.
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 3-ounce package vanilla instant pudding
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, with juice
1 8-ounce container Cool Whip
Mix softened cream cheese, pudding and pineapple andjuice together. Blend in Cool Whip. Keep refrigerated.
Cheese Tortellini with Fresh Spinach Cream Sauce
2 pounds fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
6 slices crisp cooked bacon or pancetta (Italian bacon)
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 bag (3 cups) prewashed baby spinach leaves
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
½ cup half-and-half
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more as desired for garnish
Bring 2 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil in a covered pot. When the water reaches a rapid boil, add the pasta and cook until tender, according to package directions.
Crumble cooked bacon and set aside. Slice tomatoes in half and set aside.
In a deep skillet with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and prewashed spinach to the pan and cover. Cook one minute, toss. Cook one minute more or just until the spinach wilts. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook one minute more. Reduce the heat to low and add the half-and-half. (Do not boil the sauce, because it will curdle.) If the sauce becomes too thick, add two tablespoons of pasta water and stir well.
Drain the pasta and add it to the pan. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the tortellini and toss with the sauce. Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese as desired.
Oh So Good Chinese Salad
2 tablespoons butter
¾ cup slivered almonds
1 cup cashews
½ cup sesame seeds
1 medium head of bok choy, finely sliced, (don’t use the leaves)
6 scallions, chopped
1 package Ramen noodles, broken up – discard season packet
Sauté almonds, cashews and sesame seeds in 2 tablespoons butter until golden brown. Cool. Cut up bok choy and scallions into a bowl. Add the sautéed mixture and then the broken-up noodles.
1/3 cup white vinegar
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Sylvia’s note: For a hearty version, I like to add cold, chopped chicken.