This has been another wonderful week opening up the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library.
I spent Monday and Tuesday along the Ohio River — first in Lawrence County, the southern most tip of Ohio, then east to Meigs County and Gallia County. I have always loved visiting the courthouse in Meigs County. It’s unique because it sits on a hillside just up from the Ohio River, and has ground floor entrances to the basement, first floor and second floor.
The library “openings” are especially exciting in these rural counties because it seems like everyone in town is excited to have these books available to their children — finally. They know the difference it can make. I love to read to the children while I’m there. If the kids are young I read the “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” because they can all read it with me.
After completing these three counties, we crossed the Ohio River into West Virginia to spend the night and do some early morning TV in Huntington. Huntington TV covers this area of Ohio. After doing a live segment on the morning news, we taped a cooking segment to be broadcast later in the day. Even though I love to cook, this was a challenge. They hoped I would make or at least bring a pie — but that just wasn’t feasible since I had been on the road two days, with no cooking facilities. So I decided to talk about one of the Imagination Library books, “Baking Day at Grandma’s House.” It’s a cute book about three young bears visiting grandma’s house and baking a cake. I talked about how I love to cook with kids, and I shared with them my recipe for Mix-in-the-Pan Chocolate Cake. I brought my basket of ingredients (luckily nothing needed refrigeration) and demonstrated how easy it is for children to make. Even though I had no facilities there to bake it, I did bring some of my buttermilk brownies to share with them.
After the TV segment ended, I headed to Adams County to open the Imagination Library there. It was another great day of community leaders and parents and children coming together, and I met many eager little readers.
On Wednesday Mike was headed to Toledo to have meetings and do media. Somehow he promised one radio host that he would bring one of my cherry pies next time he came to the studio. So I got up early and made one cherry pie, which he whisked away, still piping hot from the oven. Promises kept.
As I write this, it’s Ronald Reagan’s birthday: Feb. 6. I will never forget when I met President Reagan. Mike had just been sworn-in to the U.S. House of Representatives, and the president invited all the new members to the White House for dinner. I’ll never forget standing in the receiving line, holding my 10-day-old baby, my heart beating so fast because I was nervous to meet the president.
In honor of President Reagan I’m making his favorite macaroni and cheese. Nancy Reagan once told a group of Congressional spouses that sometimes she would make this up in the White House private quarters for the president. It was one of his favorite comfort foods. It’s easy to make. There’s no need to make a cream sauce. And it’s good and cheesy. It’s also pretty easy for kids to make if you help them boil the pasta.
For Valentine’s Day I’m going to help my grandkids make the Mix-in-the-Pan Chocolate Cake. I think we will whisk it together in a bowl, and then bake it in a heart-shaped pan. If we have more batter than fits easily in the pan, we’ll just make a few cupcakes, too. The decorating will be the most fun part.
Mix-in-the-Pan Chocolate Cake
Measure into 9-inch by 13-inch cake pan and stir together:
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon salt
Make 3 holes in ingredients. Put each one into a hole:
2/3 cup oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Pour over all:
2 cups water
Mix well with a spoon. Bake at 350 degrees for 3o minutes.
President Reagan’s Favorite Macaroni and Cheese
Boil in water and drain:
1/2 pound macaroni
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg, beaten
3 cups grated sharp cheese (reserve 1/2 cup for top)
Put in buttered casserole.
1 teaspoon dry mustard, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
Pour milk mixture over macaroni. Sprinkle with reserved cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until custard is set.
Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.