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Honey adds touch of sweetness to meal

Thursday, August 23, 2001

By Suzanne Martinson, Food Editor, Post-Gazette

When Denise Schreiber of Pleasant Hills submitted her first Countdown to Dinner recipe, it arrived with her testimonial but no name: "This is a recipe that you can increase with ease. It's an easy main meal that takes less than 30 minutes including prep time."


"It's brain-dead easy," Denise tells us. "I don't like Hamburger Helper stuff, but this is good."

Good enough for us. It is easy and once we tasted it, a name emerged: Chicken with Sweet Rice and Mushrooms. OK with you, Denise?

Though the technical name for her job is "horticulture/design manager of Allegheny County Parks," Denise refers to herself as "greenhouse manager." At the park department's greenhouses in Round Hill, Hartwood Acres, Boyce Park, North Park and South Park, they grow the flowers for all the parks.

"We do the courthouse Downtown, Soldiers and Sailors, and flowers for the airport come from our greenhouses," she says.

The Boyce Park and Round Hill greenhouses are open to the public.

One public event that caught Denise by surprise with its popularity was her recent seminar on edible flowers. More than 200 people turned up at South Park. The event included taste tests. "Do you known how much linguine for 200 people weighs?" she asks. At times, she says she felt as though "I was catering a wedding. I'll never do that again."

She hastens to add, "It went very well, with all the people there."

This week, Denise takes on another project of sorts -- a return to college to complete a bachelor of arts degree in communications studies, which follows an associate degree in science and horticulture. She's attending Carlow College, where daughter Regan, 21, is a senior. Husband, Donald, is a supervisor in a company that provides Dumpsters.

The Countdown recipe evolved one day when her niece was visiting. The niece continues to make the dish, too.

"With the honey, I usually don't measure other than to do 'Glug! Glug!' " she says.

No doubt she will be measuring for the State Farm Show in Harrisburg, where she will compete in the Quick Vegetable Bread contest after winning first place in the Washington County Fair. Her entry -- contestants have to use a cup or more of vegetables -- has a cup and a half of caramelized onions, a cup of cheese, some Pecorino Romano, two cups regular flour and a heaping cup of Irish flour, baking powder -- and beer.

"I was waiting for it to explode," she jokes. "The Irish flour gives a nice little crunchiness to it."

Earlier entries have also earned her a berth at the Farm Show, which is in January. She sent an apple pie last year and a Hershey recipe another time.

She serves on the board of the Allegheny County Fair, so she doesn't compete there. "This year I think I'm going to have to take my entry to Harrisburg," she says.

In the meantime, she is working full-time and attending college full-time in the evening.

"I'll be talking to myself, come Christmas," she says.


2 packages of Lipton Mushroom and Rice mix
4 boned, skinned chicken breasts halves, cut into bite size pieces
1 can mushroom pieces, drained (we used 6 ounces)
4 tablespoons honey

Follow the directions for cooking the mushroom and rice but add to the cooking water 4 tablespoons of honey.

In large saute pan, cook the chicken breast pieces until done. (She says she usually sautes them in butter, but you can use a little olive oil if you like, or margarine.) Add the canned mushrooms and cooked rice to the chicken in the pan. Cook an additional 2 minutes to cook it down some more, then serve.

Four generous servings.

Note: Be careful not to overcook the chicken (she says you can use dark meat if you prefer) because it continues to cook when the rice is added. Because of the honey, it's extremely hot when you take it out, so let it cool for a minute or two, she advises.

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