homepage logo

Empty nesters learning to cook in smaller quantities

By Staff | Apr 3, 2009

Karla Pals, of Belmond, in Wright County shows two of her favorites she has prepared. On the left is a plate of cappuccino cream scones and on the right is a plate of her favorite buns.

BELMOND – Karla Pals and her husband, Larry, live on a farm in northeast Wright County on the farm where Larry was raised. After 26 years of marriage and four grown children, the youngest in college, Karla says her biggest adjustment now is cooking in smaller quantities.

Karla Pals readily admits being creative is the driving force in her life. She enjoys painting on canvas and rocks, calligraphy, crossword puzzles, sewing, scrapbooking, reading, and plants and flowers. Each year she designs and prints her own Christmas cards.

She works part time as a floral designer at Accents On Main in Belmond. As a farm wife she hauls in loads during the fall and runs the field cultivator in the spring and describes herself as “the go-fer girl.”

Included in her creativity is cooking. “Cooking is a part of being creative,” she said. Pals said she has always cooked, growing up around her mother and grandmother who both enjoyed cooking. Her favorite kitchen items are her convection oven, cookie scoops, bread machine and parchment paper.

She enjoys cooking what her family likes, which includes baked potato soup, cinnamon syrup with waffles and apple crisp. Her family looks for these items when they visit.

Another family favorite is the recipe for her favorite buns, which she describes as predictable and versatile. She enjoys experimenting with her recipes and one time used a mix of half water and half tomato juice in her bun recipe in place of water. It gave the buns a reddish tint without affecting their flavor.

Having family home on weekends or holidays is very enjoyable, but Karla Pals says her favorite time of the year is the first two weeks of August when her family vacations at a northern Minnesota cabin. Every morning there is a big breakfast and fish fries or barbecues every evening. They have been doing this for years and it has become almost a family reunion.

Another family tradition over the last eight to 10 years is the family gathering at the Pals home of 30 to 50 people every Christmas Eve. Their spacious home lends itself to this good-sized turnout with various kinds of soup and appetizers on the menu.

As a couple, Larry and Karla Pals are active in their church, where they both sing in the choir. They serve at the Wright County Fair, where Larry serves on the board and Karla is a leader for the Iowa Hawkeyes 4-H Club.

She is also active on the Belmond Area Arts Council for 20 years where she designs posters, ads, and T-shirts for the Prairie Homestead Antique Power and Country Craft Show held each August at the Jenison Meacham Art Center Farm northeast of Belmond.

The Pals are parents to four children – Matt, who lives in Mason City with his family; Kristopher, in Mason City; Sara, who lives in Cedar Rapids with her husband Dan and attends Kirkwood College; and Dustin, who is a student at Central College at Pella.

Baked potato soup

1/2 cup diced yellow onion

2/3 cup flour

6 cups chicken broth

6 large potatoes, baked, cooled, and cubed (skins on)

1 8-ounce carton sour cream

2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1-2 teaspoons dried basil, as desired

1 teaspoon pepper blend

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (or to taste)

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Cook bacon in large saucepan until crisp; remove from fat and crumble. Cook onions in bacon grease until transparent. Return bacon to pan and add flour, stirring quickly to coat the bacon and onions. Add one cup chicken broth and stir quickly to dissolve flour, then add one more cup and stir until smooth. Cook and stir until mixture bubbles and thickens then add remaining four cups broth and stir well. Add potatoes, sour cream, and seasonings; mix well and let cook about 30 minutes. Add cheese and stir until melted.

This soup is a most requested meal when the family is at home.

Favorite buns

2 eggs

1 1/4 cups warm water

1/3 cup canola oil

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 package or 2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast

Place ingredients in order listed in bread machine pan. Run through mix, adding more flour if needed, and first ruse cycle. Remove from pan and shape into dinner rolls, buns, or cinnamon rolls. Let rise and bake at 335 degrees 20-25 minutes until browned.

This recipe may also be made conventionally. I’ve been using this recipe for over 15 years; it’s a family favorite.

Apple crisp

8-10 firm apples

1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon


1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

2/3 cup butter or margarine

Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch pan. Peel, core, and slice apples into a large bowl, mixing in the sugar, flour and cinnamon. Place in prepared pan.

For topping, stir together sugar and flour. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over apples. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned and apples are tender.

This is Larry’s mother’s recipe, and still his favorite.

Cappuccino cream scones

2 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons instant coffee

1/2 cup butter

1 large egg

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup mini chocolate chips

1/3 cup milk

Stir together flour, sugar, coffee crystals, baking powder, salt, and almond. Cut in the butter, then stir in the chips. In a separate cup, whisk together egg and milk, then combine with dry ingredients to make a soft dough, being careful not to over mix. Drop the dough by 1/4 cupfuls onto a greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in the upper half of a 400 degree oven for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on rack. Drizzle with glaze while still warm.


2 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon instant coffee

5-6 tablespoons heavy cream

Stir together to make a pourable glaze.

Clear punch

1 12-ounce frozen lemonade, not diluted

1 12-ounce frozen white grape juice, diluted as per label directions

Drop or two of clear vanilla

Stir together ahead of time and refrigerate. To serve, add 1 2-liter bottle of Sprite or 7 Up.

Maple granola

7 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

1 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup maple syrup (or honey)

Stir together dry ingredients. Combine oil and syrup and pour over oatmeal mixture. Stir well. Divide between two jelly roll pans and bake at 250 degrees for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes for even browning. Cool and store in a closed container. Keeps at least three weeks. (Other additions could include craisins, raisins, pecans, flax seed or wheat germ.)

One of my favorite breakfasts is maple granola with yogurt and fresh fruit.

Apple coffee cake

2 teaspoons baking powder

Stir together dry ingredients. Cut in butter until crumbly. Reserve 1/2 cup for topping.

1/2 cup milk

Beat together and add to above mixture. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch greased cake pan and spread out. Cover with one can “most fruit” apple pie filling. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon, and then top with reserved crumbs. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Drizzle with powdered sugar icing while warm or leave plain. Other flavors of pie filling may be used, just omit the cinnamon.

Cinnamon cream syrup

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup evaporated milk (small can)

Combine sugar and cinnamon in sauce pan; add water and syrup and cook, stirring, over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Boil and stir for one minute. Cool five minutes and stir in milk. Keeps well in refrigerator. Reheat slowly or it becomes stringy. This is still our children’s favorite on pancakes and waffles.

Contact Rye by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page