With Mother's Day right around the corner, the “Today” show decided to honor moms who labor in the kitchen year round to please their family and friends. We asked viewers and Web site users to e-mail us nominations for inclusion in our five-part series "My Mom's the Greatest Cook."
Hundreds of people wrote in. We read about some amazing women and saw some delicious recipes.
The huge majority, of course, were about their moms (and stepmoms). But a few came from people writing about other people’s moms! Such was the case with an e-mail from Meggin Weimerskirch, who wrote to tell us about Judy Brown, the mother of her best friend, Jill.
Meggin told us that Judy’s cooking had inspired her as a youngster hanging out at the Brown house. In fact, the cooking was so good that Judy and her husband went on to open a successful restaurant 15 years ago. (See Meggin’s e-mail below.)
The story piqued our interest so much that we flew to Toledo, Ohio, to check out Judy’s cuisine. Needless to say, we were impressed. You will find some of Judy’s recipes below as well as more information about her and Meggin we learned during our trip.
HERE IS MEGGIN’S E-MAIL:
I have a friend’s mom that I grew up with in Toledo, OH, who made me love cooking. When I was younger I loved to go over to their home & cook with her. This was one of the highlights of my teen years. Not only would we cook, but we'd laugh, tell stories, and bond. As the years went by, I was not around to cook with her as I had moved to Columbus, OH. The last time I watched this segment I thought of her immediately. She is my friend Jill's mom & her name is Judy Brown. She lives in Toledo, OH, & owns a restaurant with her husband, John, called Trotter's. … She is and always will be the GREATEST cook I know. I'm proud I got the chance to spend so much time with her & had the opportunity to learn what I did. The people of Toledo, OH, are fortunate to have such a great restaurant with such an outstanding cook!
MORE ABOUT JUDY BROWN AND MEGGIN WEIMERSKIRCH AND THE GREAT FOOD THEY SHARE
Meggin's best friend in high school was Jill, whose mom is Judy Brown. Meggin says she used to go over Jill's house every weekend and she would cook with Judy every time she was there. She says Judy took her under her wing and taught her that cooking didn't have to be a chore. Judy taught Meggin not only the fundamentals of cooking but also made her feel that she could make things she didn't dream of even trying. She taught her how to cook from scratch. Meggin says cooking with Judy was the highlight of her teen years.
They haven't cooked together for about ten years because Meggin moved away to Columbus. Judy was shocked and so happy that Meggin wrote to “Today” about her. She couldn't believe that Meggin still felt this way after all of these years.
In fact, Judy loves cooking so much that she opened up a restaurant with her husband, John. Looking for bigger office space for their marketing business, they looked at a building that had a non-functioning restaurant downstairs and an office upstairs. Although they didn't have any experience in the food business, they decided to buy the place and open a restaurant, which they named Trotters. They've been in the restaurant business now for 15 years and have had to move locations to expand.
Judy is the main cook at Trotters. She says she just looks at it like having a dinner party every night. She says she loves cooking so much that she cooks at Trotters six days a week (they are closed on Sundays) and she cooks at home on her day off.
Pineapple Chicken SaladJudy Brown
Salad greens, fresh fruit and edible flowers for garnish (Judy uses organic orchids, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries)
toasted pecans, chopped (optional)
Put chicken in pan. Add enough water to cover. Add bay leaves, pepper and salt. Simmer gently until chicken is cooked (about 15-20 minutes). Remove from water, cool slightly. De-bone chicken and remove skin. Sprinkle with celery salt while still warm. Cut chicken into medium-size pieces.
While chicken is cooking, in large mixing bowl combine mayo, grapes and crushed pineapples. Fold in chicken chunks. Add mandarin oranges and toss gently. Put in refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.
Using two whole fresh pineapples, slice in half lengthwise. (Do not remove green leaves at top of pineapples.) Remove tough center core, leaving fruit intact. Cut under and around the fruit, cubing it in the shell.
Heap a generous scoop of the chicken salad atop each pineapple half. Put some salad greens on a plate. Place pineapple on top of greens and garnish with fruit and flowers. Toasted nuts can also be sprinkled on top of chicken salad, if desired.
91231866048426935291536066227771chicken breasts66 whole bone-in, skin-on chicken breastsbay leaves22 bay leaveswhite pepper0.5teaspoon1/2 teaspoon white peppersalt1tablespoon1 tablespoon saltwaterwatercelery saltcelery saltmayo 0.75cup3/4 cup mayo (if salad is dry, add more mayo)white seedless grapes0.5cup1/2 cup white seedless grapes, cut in half black seedless grapes0.5cup1/2 cup red or black seedless grapes, cut in halfcrushed pineapple20ounce1 20-oz. can of crushed pineapple, drainedoranges12ounce2 12-oz. cans of mandarin oranges, drainedfresh pineapples22 fresh pineapplesSalad greensSalad greens, fresh fruit and edible flowers for garnish (Judy uses organic orchids, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries)pecanstoasted pecans, chopped (optional)
Banana BreadJudy Brown
Preheat oven to 325F. Grease and flour a 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2 loaf pan. Chop and lightly toast pecans. Mix together flour, baking soda and salt. Add sugar, eggs, oil and buttermilk. Stir to blend. Add mashed bananas, toasted pecans and vanilla. Pour half of batter in loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes on wire rack.
While cooling, add butter across top and sprinkle with generously with sugar. Take out of pan and lay on side. Serve when it's just about cool or wrap in cling wrap to store for a day or so.
9123186604912693527771bananas44 large, ripe bananas, mashed (2 cups)vanilla extract2teaspoon2 teaspoons vanilla extracttoasted pecans1cup1 cup toasted pecans, choppedvegetable oil1.5cup1 1/2 cups vegetable oilsugar2cup2 cups sugareggs44 eggs, lightly beatenflour3cup3 cups all-purpose flourbuttermilk6tablespoon6 tablespoons buttermilkbaking soda1.5teaspoon1 1/2 teaspoons baking sodasalt0.5teaspoon1/2 teaspoon salt