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Marriage expands food experiences

By Staff | Mar 27, 2009

KAREN AMMAN POSES in her Fort Dodge-area kitchen. She and her husband, Denny, prepare grilled and smoked meat for the freezer to enjoy “the tastes of summer” during the winter months.

As a young girl, Karen Amman wasn’t interested in being in the kitchen, She preferred being a tomboy outside. It wasn’t until she grew up and was married that she found herself needing to cook.

Amman said her mother was an excellent cook and the family ate everything they raised on the farm. When she married her husband, Denny, it gave her a chance to try and to prepare different foods that she never had while growing up. Denny’s mother, she explained, was a more adventurous cook with a wider range of tastes.

“Because of that I got to try things I didn’t have while growing up,” said Amman. “Also when we got married we had a friendship with some other couples and we would go from house to house and that also gave me a chance to try to cook and eat new things.”

Amman has been active in 4-H practically her entire life as first a member and now a leader for several years. She has also worked as the ISU Extension 4-H and youth coordinator in Webster County.

Her expertise in the kitchen came in handy as a 4-H leader and Amman has always enjoyed watching young people cook.

ONE OF KAREN AMMAN'S favorite appetizers to serve to guests include New Orleans shrimp boil; chilled asparagus, Mexican layer dip and fresh vegetables with fresh vegetable dip.

“I was always impressed with young people in the kitchen and how competent they are,” she said.

When it comes to cooking, Amman said she likes to try new things. She has a large collection of cookbooks, but mainly likes to keep recipes simple – especially when entertaining.

“When I invite people over, I have the food ready to go so I can enjoy my guests more and so I’m not spending all of the time in the kitchen,” said Amman.

Amman said she browns large amounts of hamburger ahead of time, freezing so it’s ready to be made into a meal.

She and her husband will smoke different kinds of meat in the fall and freeze it for later, enjoying “the taste of summer in the dead of winter.” They also grill some meat ahead of time and warm it up when the weather’s too bad for grilling.

Because of her love of cookbooks, Amman decided it would be a great idea to make a family cookbook. She and Denny produced the 1998 Thomas Family Cookbook, handing out copies to the Thomas family during a reunion.

“We put all of my favorite things in there and others contributed, too, and then everyone in the family received one,” she said.

Amman now works at the radiology desk at Trinity Regional Hospital. Denny Amman is retired from farming in the Duncombe area. The couple has two children, Scott Amman, and his wife, Bess, and Molly Amman.

New Orleans shrimp boil

For 1 to 2 pounds of shrimp

12 cups water

1 tablespoon of salt

1 lemon, 1 potato, and a large onion (all cut into quarters).

1 bulb of garlic (cut in half) no need to separate cloves (this will be enough for several pounds of shrimp).

1 tablespoon of Zatarain’s liquid shrimp and crab boil (add just before adding shrimp)

Simmer vegetables in water until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove vegetables from water before adding shrimp, (Note: In New Orleans they eat the vegetables, so the veggies can be left in the shrimp boil.)

Add 1 tablespoon of Zatarain’s liquid shrimp and crab boil.

Bring water to a boil and add shrimp. Cook about four minutes after water comes back to a boil. If you cook shrimp too long they get mushy. Can be served hot or cold.

If serving them cold, spread out so they can cool or they will continue to cook and get mushy.

Mexican layer dip

Layer in pie plate:

1 can bean dip

1 medium red onion (chopped)

1 can frozen guacamole

1 small can chopped or sliced black olives

4 ounce chili salsa

Top with grated cheddar cheese

Serve cold with tortilla chips


1/2 pound lean ground beef

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

3 cups tomato sauce

Lasagna noodles, cooked, enough to make 3 layers (Usually about nine.)

1 pound cottage of ricotta cheese

1 pound Mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook ground beef and Italian seasoning in olive oil. Add tomato sauce. Simmer noodles on low until cooked and drain well. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, cover bottom sparingly with tomato/meat sauce (try not to get much meat). Place a layer of noodles in pan, dot with 1/3 of cottage/ricotta cheese. Also spread 1/3 of Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Spread with 1/3 tomato meat sauce.

Repeat two more layers, being sure to have enough tomato sauce to cover to top layer so it doesn’t dry out.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting to serve.

Chocolate cake

3 cups flour

2 cups sugar

2 cups cold water

1 cup salad oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons vinegar

2 teaspoons baking soda

2/3 cup cocoa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix above ingredients, grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until done. Use toothpick to test.

Baked eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

1/4 cup butter

1 1/2 dozen eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chopped green onion

Melt butter in 9-by-13-inch pan and spread. Beat together eggs, sour cream, milk and salt. Stir in onion. Bake for 35 minutes.

Sweet and sour pork

1 tall can pineapple chunks

A few thin slices of onion

1 green pepper, sliced

1 to 1 1/2 pounds of lean loin pork shoulder, cubed. (Butterfly pork chops are also suitable.)

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup vinegar

1/4 cup light soy sauce

2 tablespoons corn starch

Drain pineapple. To pineapple juice add brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and corn starch. Stir. Combine pineapple chunks, onion and green pepper. Heat cast iron skillet. Brown meat quickly. Add pineapple juice mixture. Cook until meat is tender, about 25 minutes on low heat. Add pineapple chunk mixture and cook for five minutes.

Serve over rice

Twice baked potatoes

8 medium baking potatoes, baked

1/4 cup butter

1 cup sour cream

Chives to taste

1 egg beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

9 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled

Cut thin layer from one side of potato and scoop out and mash. Add butter, sour cream, chives, egg, salt and pepper. Mix well with electric mixer. Stir in bacon pieces.

Spoon mixture into potato skins. Wrap in foil. Reheat in oven or wrap in foil and freeze. Frozen potatoes (unthawed and unwrapped) can be reheated in a 400 degree oven for 45 to 60 minutes.

Molasses cookies

3/4 cup shortening

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

4 tablespoons molasses (1/4 cup)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoon soda

2 1/4 cups flour

Mix ingredients. Form balls and roll in sugar. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.

Contact Kriss Nelson by e-mail at knelson@frontiernet.net.

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