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Competitive cooking

By Staff | Oct 8, 2010

Jan Trometer, of Jamaica, has been cooking her entire life and enjoys entering in competitions at the Iowa State Fair.

Jamaica – Jan Trometer said she has always been in the kitchen cooking and it’s from the many years of experience has led to many successful stints at several competitions at the Iowa State Fair.

“I’ve always cooked with my mom and grandma as a kid,” said Trometer. “I grew up helping mom with canning, cooking and was in 4-H, too.”

Canning, she said, was a big part of her childhood because of the many fruit trees they had on their farm.

Trometer and her husband, Dennis Tometer, both grew up on Iowa farms and decided it was time to relocate back to a farm 17 years ago after their daughter was married.

They raise horses and found a farm near Jamaica with the right amount of pasture and cropland for their equines.

Jan Trometer has entered her crispy cheese bites for competition at the Iowa State Fair and occasionally makes them as a special treat at home.

Horses continue to be a big part of Trometer’s life as well as substitute teaching, gardening and her grandchildren’s activities.

Trometer said she enjoys baking and cooking and because of her husband’s dietary requirements, will change up the recipe to make it healthier for him to enjoy.

Trometer began entering in food competitions when her daughter had qualified to show horses at the Iowa State Fair. She thought it would give her something to do.

She did well initially which gave her the confidence to compete again and has been competing on and off since the mid-1980s.

“When you get that first ribbon it just bites you,” said Trometer.

This year Trometer entered around a dozen different entries.

Her crispie cheese bites earned first place; a German sauerbraten earned second; in the wacky mac bow-tie pasta contest her veggie pasta salad received a third place. She earned honorable mentions with her healthy zucchini bake and her fresh corn chowder.

When it comes to deciding which categories to enter, Trometer said it’s the ingredients and presentation that matters.

“I try to be creative in the ingredients and pick a product that will have a nice appearance,” she said.

“Maybe I’ll do something to change the texture a little or give it an extra kick to help attract the taste buds and eyes of the judges.”

Crispy cheese bites

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 teaspoon Tabasco

1 cup flour

1 cup crispy rice cereal

Mix butter and cheese with hands, like mixing pie crust, until well blended. Blend in the rest of the ingredients.

Form into small balls. Chill until ready to bake. Bake at 350 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes until lightly browned. Makes two dozen.

Note: These are best eaten warm, but can be served at room temperature. Balls can be frozen if made ahead of time and taken out to bake.

Peanut butter fudge

1 3/4 cups sugar

2/3 cup milk

Boil to soft ball stage. While cooking, put the following in a separate large pan: 1 cup marshmallow creme and 1 cup peanut butter.

Pour hot candy mixture over the marshmallow creme and peanut butter. Mix until well-blended and add 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Continue stirring a few minutes. Fudge will start to lose its shine. Pour immediately into an 8-by-8-inch dish or a 7-by-11-inch dish. Let cool and cut.

Chocolate zucchini cake

1/2 cup soft margarine

1/2 cup oil

1 3/4 cup sugar

Cream together until fluffy.

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour milk or buttermilk

Add to creamed mixture and beat with mixer until well blended.

2 1/2 cups sifted flour

1/4 cup plus one tablespoon cocoa

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon soda

Pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix all dry ingredients together and add to above mixture. Beat well with the mixer.

2 cups finely diced zucchini in 1/4-inch cubes

1/2 cup chocolate or milk chocolate chips (or more if you love chocolate chips)

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, broken into pieces or chopped coarsely

Stir zucchini in by hand. Put cake into two 8-inch round pans.

Sprinkle chocolate chips and nuts on top of batter before putting cake into the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean and dry.

Note: This cake needs no frosting. It can be baked in 9-by-13-inch pan, which will increasing baking time to 45 to 50 minutes.

Hints: Use large zucchini, cut in half, quarter and remove seeds and pulp around seeds. Doesn’t have to be peeled, but if peeled it is less noticeable in the cake.

Cut in 1/4inch strips and then dice into the 1/4-inch cubes.

To make sour milk, add one teaspoon to 1/2 cup whole or skim milk. Trometer uses SACO buttermilk blend powder which she keeps in her freezer, using two tablespoons and 1/2 cup water in the recipe.

“Don’t tell them it’s zucchini cake. Just say chocolate cake and they will be asking for more before they ever figure out they are eating their vegetables,” said Trometer.

Easy zucchini casserole

3 cups grated or shredded zucchini

1 cup cracker crumbs

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (can use fast cheddar shreds)

2 beaten eggs (can use egg beaters)

2 tablespoons finely diced onion

1 can cream style corn

Combine ingredients and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Note: This is a very healthy dish and excellent for low fat diets when you substitute the fat free cheese and eggbeaters.

Lime pickles

These are made from large cucumbers and taste just like watermelon pickles. Pick 12 to 20 large firm cucumbers. Peel, cut out all seeds and cut in strips or chunks. Use a large crock – Trometer prefers the 3-gallon size.

Mix two cups pickling lime with enough water to cover cukes. Stir until lime is well dissolved. Add cucumbers and let soak overnight. Trometer stirs it a few times to keep lime from settling out during the soak process.

Drain cukes and rinse at least three times to get all the lime off the pieces. Soak in ice water for at least three hours. They can soak longer if needed.

Mix together in a large pan:

1 quart water

7 cups sugar

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 tablespoon salt (use pickling salt rather than iodized salt if possible)

1 package (6 ounce to 9 ounce size) of cinnamon red hots candies.

Heat, stirring until sugar and candy melt. Rinse off cukes and put in a large kettle. Pour the hot syrup over and cook until clear. (Cooks can add the cukes to the hot syrup if they are careful to add a few at a time to avoid splashing and getting burned. The syrup will be hot and sticky).

Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer. This will take one- to two hours to cook. When clear, pack in hot jars and use hot flats and rings. Water bath for 15 minutes.

Note: These are a pretty red color and very nice on a pickle or relish tray.

Refrigerated cucumber slices

Smaller cucumbers that have not developed large seeds are best for these pickles.

7 cups thinly sliced unpeeled cucumbers

1 red or orange or yellow pepper or three or four sweet banana peppers, chopped finely

1 cup thinly sliced onions

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 cup white vinegar

Wash cucumbers and slice thinly. Mix together in a large bowl. Put in jars or containers in the refrigerator.

These will keep for months in the refrigerator, Trometer said.

Contact Kriss Nelson at jknelson@frontiernet.net.

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