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Cook's Corner

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Diana Parker | The Journal Gazette
Rise Vandenburg won an award for her Apple Brownies.

Retired teacher turns focus to food contests

– Rise Vandenburg of Allen County has participated in her share of baking contests.

Last year, Vandenburg, 62, was awarded champion of single-crust pies at the Allen County 4-H Fair.

Vandenburg has entered contests “several times for 4-H fair and the Silver Dollar Fair in Chico, Calif., when we lived there (1984). That was for the squash pie. I’ve never made a pumpkin (pie) since. It’s richer taste. But you can’t tell people it’s squash until they’ve had a bite.”

Recently retired from teaching at Haverhill Elementary School, Vandenburg says she began entering local baking contests after seeing a notice in the paper for the 4-H fair.

“It was in the paper that they needed pies and I thought I can make a pie. I made a chocolate chip pie but they wanted fruit pies,” she says.

As she thinks about the number of times she’s entered contests, Vandenburg gets up from her kitchen chair and walks over to her cookbook collection.

“Let me look at how many 4-H cookbooks I have. Four 4-H, one Johnny Appleseed and one Silver Dollar (cookbooks),” she states.

Usually when she’s looking for a recipe to use the ingredients she has on hand, Vandenburg will use the Internet. But if she wants a dessert recipe, something she’s known for making, she goes to “Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts.”

“Because both of my sons (Loyal and Michael) were raised on that book, I gave both of the women in their lives a copy,” she says.

Although she enjoys making desserts, Vandenburg says that because of health issues with both herself and her husband, Mike, she tries to make healthy food choices.

“That’s become a bigger issue with my husband. We go low-fat. We just talked with a dietitian last week, and she said look at your plate and half should be green – salad or vegetable or both,” she says.

Asked what she would prepare for the occasional hectic day, Vandenburg gives a mischievous look and says, “A restaurant – a Mexican restaurant because we’re from Southern California.”

Q. What vegetable do you eat most often?

A. Probably salads, whatever you can put into a salad. And broccoli and the sweet corn now.

Q. What’s one thing people would not find in your refrigerator?

A. Not a lot of artificial things. I like the real stuff.

Q. If you were stuck on a deserted island, and there were no dietary restrictions, what one food would you have to have?

A. Probably chocolate, dark chocolate definitely.

Q. Who would you consider as your cooking idol?

A. Maybe my husband’s mom, the late Catherine Vandenburg. She taught me the importance of flavors and how to enjoy flavors.

Q. What one word would describe your cooking style?

A. I don’t know, easy-going? Because once I’ve read through that recipe, I’ll add or subtract (something) and I’m not worried about that.

Apple Brownies

2 sticks butter

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups apples (2 large, 2 small, any kind)

1 cup pecans

Melt the butter in an 8-cup mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar. Stir in the eggs. Mix in dry ingredients. Cut the apples in quarters; cut each quarter in three slices; cut slices into chunks about 1/2 -by- 3/4 -inches. (No need to peel the apples.) Chop nuts coarsely. Stir apples and nuts into batter. Pour into a greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes. Makes 18 to 24 servings.

Bi-Berry Pie

Strawberry filling:

1 quart strawberries, divided

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3/4 cup water

Blueberry filling:

6 cups (32 ounces) blueberries, rinsed

1/2 stick butter

4 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup sugar

1 (9-inch) baked pie crust

For the strawberry filling, slice 1 pint of the strawberries into medium saucepan. Add sugar, cornstarch and water. As the berries heat up, crush them to release the juice. When the sauce is clear and thick, remove from heat.

For the blueberry filling, put half the berries in a large saucepan. Add the butter and lemon juice. Heat and stir until the berries release their juice. Add flour, salt and both sugars, cooking until mixture thickens. Add more flour if necessary for a heavy-syrup consistency. Remove from heat and let cool. Before filling pie shell, add the remaining blueberries to the sauce.

Slice the remaining strawberries in half and place in the bottom of the baked pie shell. Pour strawberry sauce over them just to cover. You will have some berries and sauce left. Cover the strawberry layer with the blueberry mixture. Pour gently so the layers do not mix. Decorate the top with sliced strawberries. There will be filling from both berries left over – good over ice cream, too. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Better Than Pumpkin Pie

1 1/4 cup cooked butternut squash, puréed

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon flour

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup evaporated milk

2 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell

Combine squash, sugar, salt, spices and flour in mixing bowl. Add eggs; mix well. Add evaporated milk, water and vanilla. Mix. Pour into pie shell. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. May need to check before end of baking time. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Cook’s Corner is a weekly feature. If you know of someone to be profiled, write to Cook’s Corner, The Journal Gazette, P.O. Box 88, Fort Wayne, IN 46801-0088; fax 461-8648; or email dparker@jg.net.

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