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Loves the country life

By Staff | Jan 28, 2011

Julie Vavrik's old stove stopped working late last year, and her husband Marv just installed their new stove, which is ready to cook its first meal for the family.

CLEAR LAKE – Julie Vavrik lives on an acreage with her husband Marv and two children in northern Cerro Gordo County between the towns of Ventura and Fertile.

She is only a few miles from the dairy farm where she was reared west of Fertile.

While both Marv and Julie Vavrik work in nearby Mason City, their life on the acreage reflects their appreciation of country life.

With their daughter and son attending high school at Ventura, on any given day, their lives are a mix of work, play and school activities.

Winter is when the family becomes active in following basketball, especially at the high school level. Hannah is a senior at Ventura High School, and Dylan is a sophomore.

Julie Vavrik's favorite cookbook is a collection of recipes from her co-workers at the North Iowa Eye Clinic. In frequent use since its publication in 1992, the bottom of some of the pages are scorched from getting too close to the burner during one of her cooking sessions.

Hannah is also co-president of the combined FFA chapters at Ventura and Garner. She is planning on an education in ag-business and returning to North Iowa for her career after college.

Julie Vavrik said her approach to cooking is simple. “Start with something good,” she said. Something good to Julie Vavrik means produce from her garden and meat from a locker or an area livestock producer.

Produce from the Vavriks’ garden will include tomatoes to be eaten fresh, along side corn on the cob, or for salsa, BLTs and spaghetti sauce.

The Vavriks raise peppers – red, green, jalapeno and banana – which are frozen for salsa and spaghetti sauce. Another favorite is the jalapeno poppers they serve on trail rides they take.

Mules are a big part of daily activities for the Vavriks. Starting with one mule 20 years ago, the Vavriks have a breeding program for mules, using them for riding and pulling.

Julie Vavrik and her son, Dylan, pose with Bart, one of their mules. Mules are an important element in Vavrick family life.

For the past 10 years the Vavriks have traveled to southeast Missouri along with a couple from Mason City.

They load three mules into a trailer that has a built-in camper and join with approximately 4000 other trail riders from around the country to ride the trails in Mark Twain National Forest.

Marv Vavrik has built a stainless steel tripod that supports a grill, and meals are cooked using this during the trail ride.

Favorite meals served over the camp fire are steak, hamburger, pork loin, ribs and shish-ka-bobs.

A campfire breakfast is a burrito with egg and sausage – and anything else such as cheese, peppers, onions and sour cream.

The October trail ride is a family event for the Vavriks and is so important to Hannah and Dylan, they give up attending Ventura High School’s homecoming to attend the trail ride.

Julie Vavrik’s sure-fire way

of cooking prime rib

Cook a 7-pound prime rib fat side up in a shallow pan. Use a rub, either bought or prepared, and, for best results, apply the night before if possible.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Cook for 20 minutes, uncovered to sear in juices. Reduce heat to 250 degrees and continue cooking for another 20-30 minutes per pound.

Using a meat thermometer, cook until the center is 130 degrees. The prime rib will be rare in the center and medium to well on the ends.

Let the meat rest for 30 minutes before carving.

“Follow this and it will be good every time,” said Julie Vavrik about cooking the prime rib.

Vienna bread delight

1 loaf Vienna bread

1 package sliced Cheddar cheese

1 package sliced Swiss cheese

pound butter

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon poppy seed

4 slices bacon

Slice crust off of top of loaf. Cut into slices 1 inch thick. Do not cut through bottom crust.

Put cheese slices into bread (stagger Cheddar and Swiss). Wrap in tin foil. Do not cover top.

Melt butter. Add mustard and poppy seed. Pour over top of loaf. Place bacon strips on top lengthwise.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Bacon may be cut with a scissor before serving and it may be easier to cut through the bottom crust if necessary.

Julie Vavrik said the Vienna bread delight can be cooked over an open fire, but does need to be watched.

Mozzarella stuffed mushrooms

25 to 30 mushrooms (remove stems)

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated Mozzarella cheese

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

1/4 teaspoon salt

Dash of pepper

1/3 cup melted butter

Combine all ingredients, except mushrooms, in bowl. Stuff mushrooms with mixture.

Place on baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Mushroom stems can be chopped and added to the rest of the ingredients.

Julie Vavrik recommends the Mozzarella stuffed mushrooms highly and they can be done in a crock pot.

Pineapple crisp

1 20-ounce can pineapple chunks

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoon flour

1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup melted butter

1/2 cup Ritz cracker crumbs

Drain pineapple, reserving 3 tablespoons of juice. Combine 3 tablespoons of juice, sugar, and flour, and then stir in cheese.

Add pineapple chunks and mix well. Spoon into greased quart casserole dish.

Combine melted butter with Ritz crackers; sprinkle over mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.

Contact Clayton Rye at crye@wctatel.net.

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