Cooking means more than just feeding people, according to three women who are known for the food they make. Cooking also means time with family and friends, giving and gratification.
Linda Moore of rural Perry, Alice Hoffman of rural Perry and Donna Vandehaar, who works at Dallas County Hospital in Perry, took time out of their busy schedules to share their experiences and thoughts about cooking.
Hoffman was heating up a ham to make sandwiches for friends and relatives working on the corn harvest when she took a break to talk about her cooking experiences.
“I was a town girl, raised in Adel when I met Russ. He was a farm boy who was the best man at my sister’s wedding, and he turned out to be the best man for me,” she says.
When the couple moved to their own farm house in 1951, Alice found herself cooking for larger groups of people, 10 or more, at different times of the year.
“There was harvest, haying, planting, picking corn, all kinds of different times when I would be called on to cook for more than just the family,” Alice says.
As the family grew, she would cook for 30 – 40 people or more on various holidays. In 1999, she made her dressing recipe for 250 people to serve at a friend’s funeral dinner.
“I never stuff a turkey. I always make my dressing in a roaster-type pan, one that is deep,” she says.
To make dressing for about 10 people, set aside a 9 by 13 roasting pan. The recipe calls for 36 slices of sandwich bread toasted and cubbed; 3 cups of diced celery; 1 ½ cups diced onion or to taste; 1 pound of butter; 1 ½ teaspoons salt; 1 teaspoon black pepper; 6 eggs; 1 ½ cups turkey or chicken broth; 1 ½ cups of water; and 1 ½ tablespoons of crushed sage.
Place the bread cubes in a bowl and add in the salt, pepper and crushed sage, then set aside. Sauté the celery and onions in one pound of butter and pour onto the bread cubes. Add the water and turkey or chicken broth. Beat the eggs and add that. Toss well to distribute the ingredients throughout the bread cubes, then bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes.
To turn the dressing into a casserole, simply add pre-cooked turkey or chicken to the dressing. Alice often mixes the bread and seasonings together as much as a week in advance and puts it in the freezer, taking it out on the day of the meal to finish preparing.
Apple pies are another of Hoffman’s favorites. A number of years ago, a friend made her a special pie pan with a 17-inch circumference to make a large pie for a fundraising auction. It took 7.5 pounds of apples to make the pie that was auctioned for $350 one year.
She makes her pie crust from scratch, mixing the main ingredients for up to 10 pies at one time, about enough to last a month. The ingredients she mixes ahead of time includes the flour, buttered-flavored Crisco and salt. She then puts the mixture in the refrigerator to pull out and add the liquid at any time.
“I do make pies on a pretty regular basis. My husband likes something sweet after supper, and he really likes pie,” Alice says.
She showed off a coconut cream she had made, along with a sour cream lemon pie. Both were smooth as silk and extremely tasty. Often, she makes more than she and her husband can eat and takes the extra pie or other extra food to other people.
“I like to share. It is so rewarding,” Hoffman says. “I’ve been blessed with a lot of good friends, and I like to take food to them.”
“I lived with my two older sisters my junior and senior year of high school, and they taught me how to cook,” Moore says as she pulls some simple ingredients from her cupboard to make what she calls a quick twice-baked potato and green bean casserole.
Although both of her sisters are deceased, Moore says her sisters’ children, who call her Auntie Lynda, still call her up for cooking advice and to get recipes of her mother’s which Lynda saved.
She isn’t afraid to say she uses recipes, her favorite being old family recipes.
“I love looking at recipes, and I’m always looking for new ones. I take Taste of Home magazine and another one put out by Kraft,” Moore says.
One of her favorite dishes for potlucks or larger gatherings of friends and family after a canoe outing, is a combination of a twice-baked potato casserole and a green bean casserole.
“I just saw some pictures of each of the casseroles and started thinking how good they would taste together,” she says.
Also, the ingredients she uses are available at local grocery stores, and it can all be cooked in either the microwave or oven.
Although she often makes recipes from scratch, she says it is nice to have some recipes that are quick to make when there are going to be a lot of people to feed.
The ingredients she uses for the twice-baked potato and green bean casserole, which feeds about 10 people, are two packages of instant potatoes (any flavor or type will do); 1 cup sour cream; 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese; one can of green beans; ½ package of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing; and French fried onion rings.
Prepare the instant potatoes as directed, cooking them as directed in the microwave. Add one-half cup of cheddar cheese and about one cup of sour cream and stir. Sprinkle one cup shredded cheddar cheese over the top of the potatoes. Sprinkle the French fried onions on top in a circle around the edge of the bowl, leaving the center open. Drain the green beans and place them in the center of the bowl.
To finish, either bake the dish in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until the French fried onions are crispy, or pop it in the microwave for three minutes.
“If you want the French-fried onions more crispy, then bake the dish in the oven. But, if you are in a hurry and want to do the fast method, just put it in the microwave,” Moore says. “It still tastes great and is so easy.”
Moore says she gains great satisfaction from cooking.
“It’s a feeling of taking care of somebody, making sure there is enough for everyone to eat,” she says.
Donna Vanderhaar, chief clinical officer at Dallas County Hospital, is known among her colleagues for the treats she brings to potlucks and special meetings.
Recently she brought zucchini chocolate cake, zucchini muffins and thumb print sugar cookies to share.
“I think more than anything else, I’m known around here for my sugar cookies,” Vanderhaar says. “They are just sugar cookies, but I make them from scratch, and they have frosting in the middle.”
Ingredients for the thumb print sugar cookies, a recipe which comes from her mother, is 1 cup sugar, ½ cup butter, ½ cup vegetable shortening, 2 ¼ cups flower, 1 egg beaten, ½ teaspoon cream of tartar, ½ teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Make the dough into teaspoon-sized balls and bake 10-12 minutes. Just before the baking process is done, press a thumb print into the middle of each cookie. Use frosting to fill the indentation. The frosting Vandehaar uses includes powdered sugar, butter, almond flavor, ice water and vanilla.
“I liked cooking when I was a 4-H member as a child, and I have continued to enjoy it,”
Vanderhaar considers cooking a hobby.
“My mother and grandmother were cooking role models, and I remember tips on cooking I learned from both of them.”
She particularly likes to cook with children and currently has two neighbor children who like to come and help her out.
“I’ve kind of become a surrogate grandmother to the kids,” she says.
A recipe is a good start, but Vanderhaar says she seldom uses one. When she does go out to each and likes the food, she’ll look at the ingredients listed on a menu and then works on recreating the food at home without a recipe. She does admit she has some flops occasionally, such as the zucchini cookies that turned out “blah and had no flavor,” and the zucchini Bundt cake that would never get done.
Some of Vandehaar’s recipes appear in the “Friends of Dallas County Hospital Cookbook,” which is available at the hospital gift shop.
Vanderhaar and husband, Alan, seldom eat out, preferring to create food at home, much of which comes from their garden during the summer and fall months, including herbs.
“We would much rather have friends over for dinner than go out,” she says. “It has to do with the taste and the aroma. We are cooking up inviting smells in the kitchen.”