Category: Culinary Cardinals

Culinary Cardinals: Nick Leyva’s Jalapeño Cornbread

img_4101Monday was a stressful day of television – the presidential debate, the Marlins first game after the passing of Jose Fernandez, and a Cardinals game, with their wild card status remaining uncertain. So, I decided comfort food was needed. I made some chili in my crock pot (using this recipe), and I tried out Nick Leyva’s wife Chele’s recipe for Jalapeño Cornbread.

Here’s the recipe:

1 1/4 cups white cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 Tbs salt
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup cooking oil
1 can (8 oz) cream-style corn
3-4 jalapeño chiles, chopped
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 large onion grated

Stir together cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. In separate bowl, beat eggs lightly; stir in milk and oil. Add liquid mixture to cornmeal mixture. Stir in corn, jalapeños, cheese, and onion. Pour batter into 9″ x 11″ pan. Bake 25 minutes (or until it tests done) at 425 degrees.

“Rather than chop the jalapeños (Messy!), put them in a blender with a little of the jalapeño juice. No big pieces this way. Also rather than greasing the pan with margarine, pour a thin layer of oil in the pan. Makes the bottom crispy!”

img_4097The recipe was easy to make. I probably should have followed her advice to pulverize the jalapeños, but instead I diced them and left some sizable chunks. I also made the mistake of touching my nose after chopping the peppers, and my nose felt like it was on fire for a couple hours!  Maybe Donald Trump did the same thing and that would explain his sniffling?

I thought this cornbread just tasted OK. It would really need butter to make it more palatable.  I like my cornbread a bit sweeter. If I made this recipe again, I’d probably add more sugar.  My boyfriend Dave and a friend who watched the debate with us both enjoyed the cornbread, and Dave ate all the leftover cornbread over the course of the week. He said it was best used as a base in the leftover chili.


Nick Leyva was a Cardinals minor leaguer before being tapped by Whitey Herzog to join the coaching staff, where he worked from 1984-1988. Notably, he was the first base coach for the NL champion team in 1985 and the third base coach for the NL champion team in 1987. He went on to manage the Phillies in 1989. At age 35, he became the youngest manager in MLB in 22 years, since Dave Bristol led the Reds in 1966. After two unspectacular seasons with the Phillies, he was fired just 13 games into the 1991 season, when the team opened up with a 4-9 record. He moved around and continued to coach and now is the first base coach of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

It’s cute that Nick and Chele named their son Casey. I googled around but couldn’t find any updates on Chele or Casey. I guess Casey didn’t grow up to be a ball player despite his name and lineage. Chele also has a recipe for Corn Chowder in Cooking with the Cardinals. I guess corn is her thing.

Here’s a pic of Nick restraining Joaquin Andujar. I’m looking forward to getting to Joaquin’s fiery recipes!


KANSAS CITY, MI – OCTOBER 1985: Joaquin Andujar of the St. Louis Cardinals is restrained by coach Nick Leyva after his meltdown in game 7 against the Kansas City Royals during the World Series at Royals Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri in October of 1985. (Photo by Focus on Sports via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Joaquin Andujar;Nick Leyva


Culinary Cardinals: Tito Landrum’s Pumpkin Cake

This is the tastiest Cardinals recipe I’ve made so far! I’ve got to hand it to Teresa Landrum. With six recipes, she was one of the most prolific contributors to Cooking with the Cardinals.

Unlike Jack Clark’s Cake, which called for using box cake mix, this cake is made from scratch.  Here’s the recipe…

2 cups sifted flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup Wesson oil
2 cups canned pumpkin

Sift together flour, soda, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Beat eggs, sugar and oil together. Add to flour mixture and beat well. Add pumpkin, stirring well. Pour into greased 13″ by 9″ pan; bake for 30 minutes at 325 degrees.

1/2 cup butter
1 box powdered sugar
1 cup nuts, chopped
1 tsp vanilla
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese

Combine and beat ingredients. 

This cake was simple to make. I baked it about 35 minutes as it didn’t seem quite done at 30 minutes, but that might just be my oven. The cream cheese frosting was especially delicious. I shared it with neighbors and everyone raved. The cake was tasty while it was still a little warm, but I liked it even better after it had been in the fridge.  The cinnamon gave it a bit of a spice cake feel, and it complemented the pumpkin well. It’s the perfect cake for this Fall season. You could rename it Pumpkin Spice Cake to be trendy.

After spending eight years in the minors, Tito Landrum played on the winning teams of back-to-back World Series’ in 1982 (Cardinals) and 1983 (Orioles). After one fruitful season in Baltimore, he came back to finish his career with the Cardinals. Tito also was a key player for the 1985 Cardinals, playing in another World Series as a stellar substitute for Vince Coleman after Vince was maimed by the tarp. After baseball, he became a physical therapist. He was the honorary valedictorian of his NYU graduating class.

img_3973Tito and Teresa met at a nightclub in St. Petersburg, Florida. They have two kids, Melissa and Julie. Julie Landrum is married to Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics.


Tito and Teresa divorced in 1986, and he remarried Carol Williams, who encouraged him to go back to school after baseball. It appears that Tito and Carol are still together today, or at least they are working together at Premier Lab Associates.

Regarding the pumpkin cake, Teresa wrote, “This is one of the best cake recipes we’ve collected in our travels over the years. This and the Granny Cake recipe come from a very dear friend in Carmi, Illinois.”  The Granny Cake will definitely be on my list of recipes to try – hopefully it isn’t made of grannies.

NY Times story on Tito Landrum’s life after baseball

Culinary Cardinals: Darrell Porter’s Twenty-Four Hour Fruit Salad

darrell-porter-04Darrell Porter was my idol for a few years when I was a kid because he and I both wore glasses and played catcher. I tried to play with the same intensity and hang tough during plays at the plate. I’ll never forget the time our flight landed at Lambert International Airport in St Louis at the same time as the Cardinals’ flight, and we saw so many Cardinals players waiting around in the baggage claim area (“Stars! They’re just like us!”). While my dad got our bags, I stared at Darrell who was just sitting there waiting. He looked kinda nerdy and just like a regular human. I was 10 years old and too shy to approach him. But seeing him from a perspective that wasn’t from the upper deck of Busch Stadium or through the television blew my mind.

Darrell was a big hero for the 1982 World Series Champion Cardinals, earning the MVP awards for both the National League Championship Series and the World Series. He had a sixteen-year career in the major leagues. Here’s a highlight from the 1982 World Series.

Yes, The 80s were good times for Darrell and his family. How better to “celebrate good times” (like the Cardinals’ “Celebration” theme song suggested) than with fruit salad with extra sugar? Darrell’s wife Deanne contributed five recipes to Cooking with the Cardinals including this one for Twenty-Four Hour Fruit Salad.

1 lb red grapes, seeded
1 can (20 oz) pineapple chunks or tidbits
1 small package miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped

Mix all together and add the dressing.

2 egg yolks
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1 cup whipping cream

Mix egg yolks, milk, and dry mustard together in saucepan; cook over very low heat until of a thin custard consistency. Whip cream while custard cools. Combine custard and whipped cream. Add to fruit, and mix. Refrigerate overnight.

IMG_3603I substituted Cool Whip for real whipping cream, since I already had to use Cool Whip for Jack Clark’s Cake, and I made both recipes the same day.  This fruit salad was simple to make with the custard being the only tricky part. I don’t feel my custard got very thick – maybe because I used low-fat milk.

I mixed this all together in a large bowl and refrigerated it overnight as directed. It tasted okay, and it probably should be named “Twenty-Four Hour Ambrosia.” Honestly, I think grapes and pineapple are sweet enough that one doesn’t need to add marshmallows and custard to them.  It sucks the healthiness out of eating fruit. But I’m sure this fruit salad wasn’t on Darrell’s training table – more likely, it was a dish to be enjoyed in the off-season.  And it’s a dish that gets picky kids to eat their fruit.


Before joining the Cardinals, Darrell admitted his substance abuse problems and went to rehab in 1980. He became a born-again Christian and met Deanne soon afterward. Deanne was a legal secretary and didn’t know Darrell was a baseball player when they met. They continued to reside in Kansas City even when he was playing for the Cardinals. Deanne and Darrell had three kids (but only two kids when the photo for this book was taken). His sons Ryan and Jeff both played baseball in college, although they say their dad never pressured them. Deanne and Darrell were together until his death. He chronicled his career and substance issues in an autobiography called Snap Me Perfect! and often did public speaking engagements to encourage sobriety.

Darrel’s old demons contributed to his premature death in 2002. He was just 50 years old. He had cocaine in his system but died from “excited delirium” – that stopped his heart. It’s believed he may have overheated and that he may have had an enlarged heart due to his drug use. His family said he had been clean for 22 years before relapsing.

In an MLB News story, the Porter family looked back on Darrell’s life and remembered the good times. “He was a great father and he was a good person, and we do remember that,” Deanne said. “We’re sad that he’s gone, sad with the circumstances, particularly, in which he lost his life. But we remember the good things and the fun things.” Twenty-Four Hour Fruit Salad is one of the fun things.



Culinary Cardinals: Jack Clark’s Cake

Jack Clark is one of my all-time favorite Cardinals, and I had a huge crush on him during his mid-80s heyday.  I suppose it was his brooding intensity and home run prowess that drew me in as a pre-teen and helped me overlook the unibrow. Even though he looks kind of like Tony Soprano these days, I still find him sexy (or maybe it’s because he looks like Tony Soprano).

I can’t make excuses for some of his self-destructive and Pujols-destructive antics over the years, but I will always have a soft spot for him.  So when I came across the recipe for “Clark’s Cake,” I was eager to try it out. It’s the only recipe that Jack’s wife Tammy contributed to Cooking with the Cardinals.

Here’s the recipe as written by Tammy Clark…

1 box white cake mix (Duncan Hines or Pillsbury)
1 cup sugar
1 can (6 oz) crushed pineapple, drained
1 box (4 oz) instant vanilla pudding
1 cup sour cream
1 12 oz container Cool Whip
Coconut (optional)

Make cake according to package directions in a 9″ x 13″ pan. While cake is cooling, heat sugar and pineapple until sugar is dissolved. Pour over cake. Prepare pudding as directed on box. Add sour cream; mix together. Refrigerate 15 minutes. Pour over cake. Spread Cool Whip over top; sprinkle coconut on topping, if desired. Refrigerate.

This was super-easy to make. Cooking with the Cardinals was written in 1985, and one issue I’m experiencing with these older recipes is that the package measurements today aren’t always the same. I used a 5.1 oz pudding and didn’t remove the extra 1.1 oz, so my cake got a little sloppy with too much pudding. But can one ever really have too much pudding? You can see in the photo that the pudding almost oozed over the edges of the pan.


IMG_3586I felt the cake was pretty tasty and rather light, but I can’t say I loved it so much that I would make it again. My boyfriend really enjoyed it, as did a neighbor who called it “Delicioso!”  It is a good cake to bring to a summer BBQ and tastes sort of like a pineapple upside down cake or maybe a pineapple trifle. The sour cream gives the cake a hint of a cheesecake flavor. I think it tasted better the day after I made it, so it’s definitely a cake you could make a day before your party. It tastes better than it looks.

The name “Clark’s Cake” is certainly not very descriptive.  I’d call it “Clark’s Pineapple Power Cake” with the tag line: “Crush that pineapple the way Jack crushed the baseball!”

Jack and Tammy met in a pharmacy and married in 1979. They have three kids: Rebekah, Danika, and Anthony.


In this Rick Reilly profile from 1991, Tammy said that when Jack got riled up, his eyebrows got darker. I guess his eyebrows got pretty dark when they divorced in 1992. This Riverfront Times story from 2005 talks a lot about Jack’s hard times and his return to baseball, as he was the hitting coach for the River City Rascals at the time. He was the hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2001-03 and managed the Springfield Sliders in 2009. In recent years, he’s done some radio broadcasting and a lot of autograph signings.

I prefer to think of Jack’s glory days. Let’s relive this moment and enjoy some cake!



Culinary Cardinals: Whitey Herzog’s Coke Cherry Salad

Coke salad is a popular dish at church potlucks and BBQs. Mary Lou Herzog contributed seven recipes to “Cooking with the Cardinals,” so expect some future blog posts about “Slush Mixture” (a frozen cocktail) and “Green Lima Beans with Celery and Cheese Sauce” (did we ever eat veggies in the 80s without drizzling cheese on top of them?). Mary Lou ties for the lead with most recipes in the book, along with the wives of Bob Forsch and Brian Harper. I wonder if the wives were competitive about this.

You do have to wonder why these dishes are called “salads.” This one is so sweet that it’s really better as a dessert.

Here’s the recipe:

1 large pkg cherry Jell-O
1 can (#2) pineapple tidbits
1 can (#2) bing cherries and juice
14 oz warm Coke
1 cup walnut pieces

Drain juice from fruits (2 cups) into pan and bring to boil. Pour over Jell-O in bowl; stir until Jell-O is dissolved. Add Coke, then pineapple, cherries, and nuts. Refrigerate. 

“Can be topped with Cool Whip. Very good with Mexican food.”

IMG_3461I had no idea what “#2 can” meant, so I googled it. Apparently, cans used to be commonly numbered, and a #2 can held 16 oz. The recipe is simple, and the Jell-O mixture takes on a frothiness once you add the Coke. The only problem I had with this recipe is that it took forever for the gelatin to solidify. I chilled it five hours, and it was still not totally set when I unmolded it. It was sort of a leaning tower of Jell-O. It tasted much better the next day when it was fully set.

I’ve made Coke Salad before, according to a recipe of a friend’s mom, and that recipe contains no pineapple and instead contains cream cheese. It also uses hot water, not the fruit juice from the cans. No offense to Mary Lou, but I prefer my old version because of the consistency and because it’s not sickeningly sweet. You can find many variations of this recipe online.

Whitey and Mary Lou have been married 63 years! Here’s their pic in the cookbook, circa 1985.

FullSizeRender (1)

Here’s Whitey and Mary Lou in the parade for his Hall of Fame induction in 2010.


When she wasn’t cooking, Mary Lou sometimes cleaned windows – but these are the only windows she would clean!


Culinary Cardinals: Red Schoendienst’s Favorite Stew

Mary Schoendienst shared a few recipes in “Cooking with the Cardinals,” and last night I made her beef stew recipe, which is described in the book as “Red’s Favorite Stew.” It was a big hit! My boyfriend went for seconds and thirds.  The dogs were salivating for hours over the smell while it was cooking.  I’m not really a big beef stew fan, but I did enjoy it.

Here’s the recipe.

3 lbs beef stew meat, cut in 1 1/2 inch cubes
2 red onions, sliced
6-8 ribs celery, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
6 large carrots, cut in 3/4 inch pieces
1 1/2 tbs sugar
3 tbs tapioca
2 cans (16 oz each) stewed tomatoes and 1 can water
1/2 cup red wine
Pepper and Accent to taste

Brown meat and place in bottom of deep casserole. Layer sliced onions, celery, and carrots on top of meat. Mix together sugar, tapioca, tomatoes, wine, pepper and Accent. Pour tomato mixture over meat and vegetables. Cover and bake for 4 hours at 300 degrees. Stir every hour. Serve over rice or buttered poppy seed noodles. Serves 6-8. 

0043000228020_CL_version_type_largeThe only trick of this recipe was finding tapioca. I had to ask four staff members at Ralph’s before one of them consulted the longest-tenured cashier who directed him to it (next to the Jell-O pudding version of tapioca). I’ve never cooked with tapioca before but it comes in powdery crystal form and functions to thicken the sauce for this stew. Now I have a box of the stuff, since I only needed three tablespoons for this recipe. I guess there’s some pudding in my future.

Mary didn’t specify how big the casserole dish needed to be, and 9 x 13 is the biggest dish I had. After the stew was cooking for an hour, it started to bubble over and spill onto the bottom of the oven. When I opened the oven, a lot of smoke came out, and the smoke detector went off. I recovered from this setback by opening the windows and then transferring half of the stew into a smaller casserole dish.

Four hours is a long time to wait for dinner, but it was worth it. I imagine one could also prepare this stew in a crock pot and leave it cooking on low all day.  The meat was very tender, and the sauce was rich. I’m pretty sure Red enjoyed this stew on a winter day in the offseason, because I certainly wouldn’t have had the energy to play or coach right after eating it.


IMG_3481Unfortunately, Mary passed away in 1999. Mary and Red were married for 48 years and had four children. Red visited Cardinals Spring Training this year even though he is 93 years old now. As a player, manager or coach, Red has worn a major league uniform for 71 seasons! Longevity powered by beef stew!





Culinary Cardinals: Tom Lawless’ Strawberry Pretzel Salad

IMG_3394I am going to occasionally feature my cooking experiments with recipes from Cooking with the Cardinals – a cookbook from 1985 chock full of recipes by the Cardinals and their wives. Luminaries in the book include Whitey Herzog, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Bob Forsch, Darrel Porter, and Jack Clark.

While not the most famous Cardinal of the era, Tom Lawless did contribute one of the best recipes in the book: the iconic Strawberry Pretzel Salad.  This recipe had been in my mom’s recipe box for many years, and it’s a dish I’ve made quite a few times over the years and enjoyed at many Midwestern gatherings.

I served this at a BBQ yesterday. Guests were skeptical, but they couldn’t help but be bewitched by the sweet/savory combo of the pretzel crust, the cream cheese, Cool Whip, and strawberry jello. Oh, and lots of sugar. Even Jell-O haters are converted by this recipe, I promise ya.

Here’s the recipe, as written by Tom’s wife Cheryl.

2 2/3 cups crushed pretzels
3/4 cup margarine, melted
3 tbs sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese
1 8 0z pkg Cool Whip
2 pkgs (3 oz each) strawberry Jell-O
2 cups boiling water
1 pint frozen strawberries, with juice

Mix pretzels, margarine and 3 tbs sugar. Press on sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. Bake 10 mins at 350 degrees. Cool. Cream 3/4 cup sugar with cream cheese; add Cool Whip and mix thoroughly. Spread on top of cooled pretzel crust. Dissolve jello in boiling water. Cool. Add strawberries and juice. Pour on top of cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate until set.

Tom Lawless is most famous for being the only player traded for Pete Rose. Cardinals fans will never forget his game-winning home run in the 1987 World Series Game 4, which was pretty amazing especially when you consider he only hit two regular season home runs in his entire career (1982-1990). Check out the bat flip!


Tom has gone on to manage minor league teams and served as the Astros interim manager in September 2014 after Bo Porter was fired. He even coached the Chinese national team for three seasons! Based on this news story from January, it looks like Tom and Cheryl are still married, and Tom is looking for work. With all the sugar, Cool Whip, and cream cheese in this recipe, I’m guessing Cheryl made it during the off-season, or Tom would have never been good at running the bases.





If you like Jell-O, check out my old blog: Julie and Jell-O. About five years ago, I was inspired by Julie and Julia and decided to cook my way through a 1970s Jell-O cookbook. Eventually, I gave up – too many molds involved canned salmon, eggs, ham, and other savory items. Jell-O should only be sweet!