Fort Wayne – As a young girl, Karen Jones learned to cook and sew.
Though her mother, Katie Helm, was the head cook at the high school in Cerro Gordo, Ill., where she grew up, it was actually her father who gave her the lessons.
The Adams County resident also credits an aunt, the late Elenor Ford from Kentucky, for influencing her cooking.
I would say Aunt Elenor, she replies when asked who she considers a cooking idol.
She was a great lady. I miss her terribly, Jones, 49, says. My great aunt taught me how to make (cinnamon rolls). The first time I made them they were like hockey pucks. She told me to throw them away and try again.
A part-time employee at The Java Bean Café in Decatur, Jones and her husband, Fred Royer, who have a blended family of six children and nine grandchildren, share cooking duties at home.
We both (cook), she says, continuing, He does most of the grilling. I’ll marinate the meat, and he’ll grill it. I use the (slow cooker) a lot for lasagna and pulled pork. Every year I make 80 pounds of pulled pork from scratch for a friend’s car show.
As for her hobbies, Jones says, Sewing. And I love to read. Riding horses when I can. I have a saddle but no horse.
Q. What do you prefer – baking or cooking?
A. I like them both but if I had to choose, baking. I love making the big spread at home. I make most of my pasta from scratch.
Q. What’s your favorite cookbook?
A. Oh my gosh, that’s hard. I usually add my own flair. I like the Kraft Food magazine and Betty Crocker. I have this little binder that I kept my old recipes in, and I came across the recipe for the chocolate sheet cake. (laughs) You know the (area) where it says who the recipe is from? I had Karen Clingpeel. That was an old boyfriend’s name.
Q. Do you have a lot of cookbooks?
A. Close to a hundred. I gave about 30 away to charity. I was running out of room at home. I love buying cookbooks. I was out West last year, and I came across an old-fashioned cookbook. I would have loved to live back then. The 1800s – going across and seeing the beauty.
Q. What do you do to keep meals healthy?
A. I do not cook with salt. When we were first married, I never had salt in the house. Finally, I got salt. I don’t cook with it. I buy salt-free butter and salt-free vegetables.
Q. What’s your favorite cooking utensil or equipment?
A. I would say my KitchenAid mixer. My husband says I was going to wear it out the first week, and I got it for Christmas of 2008 or 2009. Eventually, I want to get the ice cream attachment for it. I have lots of attachments.
Q. What advice would you give beginner cooks?
A. My thing would be, don’t be scared to try your own thing. Like my chocolate blackberry pie. One of my pals likes blackberries and chocolate. I Googled it and got this recipe.
Chocolate Blackberry Pie
Double Pie Crust:
2 cups flour, cold
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter-flavored Crisco, cold
6 to 7 tablespoons water, cold
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix flour and salt, cut in butter Crisco, then add water; do not overmix. Divide dough in half, roll out on a floured surface. Put bottom crust in a 9-inch pie plate. Or you may use a ready-made pie crust.
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 to 5 cups fresh blackberries
3/4 cup (or less for your taste) semisweet or milk chocolate chips
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
In a bowl, mix sugar, flour and cinnamon. Fold in blackberries and chocolate chips. Sprinkle with the lemon juice. Place filling in pie crust. Then place your second pie crust on top. You may cut out designs before putting top crust on. Then place the cutouts back on the top of the crust. Brush an egg white wash (1 egg white, stirred) on crust before baking. You may also use crust protectors or foil on the edges for the first 35 minutes, then take off for the next 20 minutes. Bake for 35 minutes at 425 degrees on top rack, then 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Chocolate Sheet Cake
1/4 cup salt-free butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup Hershey cocoa
1 3/4 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 stick butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons of cocoa
Milk, as needed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter, shortening, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Blend in eggs. In medium bowl, combine baking soda, baking powder, cocoa, flour and salt. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk to mixture in large bowl. Grease and flour a sheet-cake pan and bake for 35 minutes. Use a toothpick and insert in middle. If it comes out clean, your cake is done. Let cool.
To make icing, start by creaming butter. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and cocoa; then add milk a little at a time to get the consistency you want. Make sure it is not too thick or too runny. Taste to make sure it is the flavor you want. Ice cake.
Makes 20 servings.
Healthy Whole Wheat Muffins
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not minute oats)
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 heaping teaspoon cocoa powder
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup molasses
1 cup applesauce (Jones uses sugar-free)
3 large carrots, finely chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup raisins, cranberries or what ever kind of dry fruit you would like, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix whole wheat flour, sugar and oats. On top of flour mixture, add cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and cocoa powder. Mix. In a large bowl, mix milk, eggs, olive oil, molasses and applesauce. Add carrots, walnuts and raisins, if desired. Add the medium bowl of dry ingredients to large bowl. Mix well. Spray muffin tins, do not use cupcake liners. Bake for 30 minutes. Poke a toothpick down center of muffin to check for doneness. Makes 12 to 15 muffins.