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Let it snow; they’re set for spring

By Staff | Dec 25, 2009

Dawn Kirsch, of rural Wesley, shows a plate of her Pride of Iowa cookies.

WESLEY – The calendar says the first day of winter has passed, confirmed by the flat snow-covered fields of east central Kossuth County surrounding the home of Darrel and Dawn Kirsch.

Although there is a Christmas tree in the corner of their home, Dawn Kirsch is already preparing for spring. The seeds of the first vegetables for her garden need to be started.

Dawn Kirsch was the youngest of three children growing up on a farm in Sioux Valley, Minn., located across the state line from Spirit Lake. She was raised by her parents with all the traditional ways of growing food – from starting your plants from seed to canning and using them for meals all year long.

When she married Darrel Kirsch 22 years ago, she brought those family traditions to their rural home north of Wesley and has taught them to their three children, Chris, 21, Bethany, 18, and Alissa, 14.

Darrel Kirsch farms with his father Gerald and brother David raising hogs farrow-to-finish along with corn and soybeans. Dawn Kirsch has a 2-acre garden for growing vegetables, strawberries, raspberries, apple trees and three plantings of sweet corn.

She also grows and starts all of her plants from seed. Last year she started 1,500 tomato plants keeping 300 for her own use. She has a stand along the road in front of their home where people can buy started plants each spring.

Much of Dawn Kirsch’s produce is destined for farmers markets in Wesley and Algona where she sells tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, geraniums and begonias.

She also prepares baked goods to sell including angel food cake, cinnamon and caramel rolls, cookies, quick breads, cherry and rhubarb pies, white bread and cinnamon bread. Besides the farmers markets, she fills orders for her baked goods from her home.

Dawn Kirsch is active in the Fresh Connections Food Cooperative started recently in Algona where she is on the board of directors. The co-op is another place where her homegrown produce can be bought.

Last year Kirsch tried community supported agriculture with two clients. Known as a CSA, a member pays a subscription fee and in return receives shipments of food that is in season as it is ready. Over a 16-week interval, her subscribers received a shipment of food each week. With one year of experience, Kirsch is seeking more clients to serve for this year and is willing to work with each customer on delivery.

Produce and baked goods aren’t the only food she prepares for sale. Kirsch raised 500 broilers last year, which were sold as frozen whole chickens. She also has laying hens to supply her with fresh eggs for sale.

The Kirsches do their own butchering from their herd of hogs and have a few head of beef for their own freezer.

Raising their own meat and vegetables along with the canning of tomato juice, spaghetti sauce, apples, pears, peaches and homemade salsa makes for infrequent trips to the grocery store.

Since she doesn’t buy any meat or vegetables at the grocery store, Dawn Kirsch said, “People must wonder what we eat.”

Harvest sugar cookies

(Dawn Kirsch describes these cookies as “light and fluffy” that are especially good for Christmas and when warm. These are a thicker cookie that is good plain or frosted.)

3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 3/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Chill for one hour or until firm.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters. Place cookies on greased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Frost when cool.

Pride of Iowa cookies

(Dawn Kirsch said these are a family favorite.)

One cup shortening (can use margarine)

1 cup brown sugar

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 cups oatmeal (uncooked)

1 cup shredded coconut

Cream the shortening, sugars and eggs. Add flour, soda, salt and baking powder. Stir in vanilla. Mix well. Add oatmeal and coconut.

Roll into small balls and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light brown. Makes about 6 dozen.

Pumpkin bars

(Dawn Kirsch describes these bars as “very moist.”)

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup melted margarine

2 cups pumpkin

4 eggs

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup nuts (optional)

Mix all ingredients and spread into greased jelly roll pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool and frost.

Frosting

3 ounces cream cheese

6 tablespoons margarine

1 tablespoon milk

3 cups powdered sugar

Mix until creamy and frost bars.

Hot cocoa mix

(Recommended for winter nights)

1/2 cup cocoa

1 cup powdered sugar

3/4 cup dry coffee creamer

5 1/2 cups dry milk

Mix dry ingredients together and store in tightly covered container. To serve, fill coffee cups 1/3 full of cocoa mix. Pour in hot water to fill cup. Stir.

Foolproof beef

and broccoli

(This is a family favorite supper that is quick and easy. It can be done in 45 minutes from freezer to table.)

3/4 pound round steak, sliced into thin strips

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 can cream of broccoli soup

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 cups broccoli flowerettes

Hot cooked noodles

In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook beef and garlic in hot oil until beef is browned. Add onion; cook 5 minutes, stirring often.

Stir in soup, water, and soy sauce. Heat to boiling. Add broccoli. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender.

Serve over hot noodles. Egg noodles work best.

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

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