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Food fit for a county fair

By Staff | Apr 8, 2011

Jan Grell, of rural Holstein, cuts the cabbage for her Reuben soup. In the foreground is her Angelic dessert, honey wheat bread, and her gingersnaps. Grell is part of her church's effort to bring a sit-down, home-cooked meal to third through twelfth graders. Despite all of her self-sustaining talents — and her ability to bring them to others — she said her greatest achievement is her part in showing children how special they are through a family-style meal.

HOLSTEIN – If you ask Jan Grell why she was recommended for this week’s farm cook, she’d tell you that it was because she is just a typical “exhibitor at the Ida County Fair.”

While it’s true that she exhibits her cooking fare at the county fair, it turns out – she quite humbly admits – that it might be a bit more than that.

However, her friend, Betty Davison, of Ida Grove, who made the recommendation, said it’s quite a bit more than that – to the tune of 10 years as the Ida County Fair open class superintendent.

“I enjoyed being acquainted with people all over the county,” Grell said of her superintendent stint from 1988 to 1998. “I always have that tie with them wherever I see them. It’s a great feeling.”

Grell set up all the events including gardening, flowers, needlework, baking, sewing and, of course, cooking – a talent that she learned while a 4-H student for 10 years in Pocahontas County before she married Ray Grell the fall after high school.

“After I finished my time in office I was replaced with three people,” she continued. Her statement stands as testament to her level of involvement.

“I think there came a time when I just wanted to try some other things.”

She said she wanted to become an exhibitor only by showing cookies, spreads, apple pies (made from her own apple trees), a variety of bread and canned goods (from her garden) including spaghetti sauce, tomatoes and pizza sauce.

“My time as superintendent of the open class, where I had to have an assistant superintendent, assign judges, find awards and create the fair book, taught me to appreciate the fair from the position of exhibitor,” Grell elaborated. “We have a terrific little fair in Ida County and a lot of people put a lot of work into it!”

Grell and her husband have been retired from feeding cattle, raising hogs and growing oats, corn and hay for 16 years now.

They rent their land now but the Grells consider themselves good old country cookin’ people.

“My husband always called me his ‘hired hand’ because I worked in the field and with the livestock right alongside him.”

Grell spends her cooking expertise now by assisting her Lutheran church group by being part of the cooking committee.

The program serves children from the third through 12th grade by providing Bible study, recreation, and music opportunities to them on Wednesday nights.

Part of that effort is to provide a sit-down, family-style meal to the group.

Many of them would not have this opportunity, she said, in a setting that shows them “how special they are and the manners that are necessary for everyone to feel that way.”

Grell, despite her quilting, her awards for cooking, spinning wheel collection and everything she’s meant to her family – including her chicken dumplings at Christmas time – values the impact she has had on children at church events the most.

And, for that, we at Farm News applaud her. Here are just a few samples of her “good country cookin'” recipes that she hopes will find their way into your kitchen.

Honey wheat bread

1 3/4 cups warm water

3 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons honey

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons salt

Combine in pan or bread baker.

2 1/2 to 3 cups white bread flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 packages instant yeast

2 teaspoon gluten

Add on top of water mixture

Set machine on dough cycle. Punch down.

Place in two loaf pans or four small coffee cans.

Let rise. Bake at 350.

May be shaped for rolls or buns too.

Olive-cheese spread

1 egg beaten

1/2 cup half and half

1/2 pound Velveeta cheese

Combine in double broiler and cook until the mixture begins to thicken. Add 1/2 small jar olives-chopped. Chill

Reuben soup

4 cups shredded cabbage

4 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth

2 cups uncooked Kluski noodles

1 ring Kielbasa or smoked sausage, cut in 1/2-inch slices

1/2 cup chopped onion

Mix all in a large saucepan, except the cheese. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or until noodles are tender.

1 cup shredded Swiss Cheese

Stir until melted. Do not boil.

Spring garden salad

4 cups diced red rhubarb

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

Combine and cook until the rhubarb is tender.

2 3-ounce packages strawberry Jell-o

Add and stir. Chill until syrupy.

2 cups fresh strawberries or 1 package frozen strawberries

1 8-ounce container Cool Whip

Fold berries and Cool Whip. Leave streaks of Cool Whip. Mold and Chill.

Mock chicken loaf

1 pound hamburger

2 cups bread crumbs

1 beaten egg

1 medium onion, chopped

1 can chicken and rice soup

1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

Bake in a small covered casserole dish or bread pan at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

Angelic dessert

3 1/2-ounce package instant vanilla pudding mix

1 cup sour cream

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

1 8-ounce container Cool Whip.

1/2 10-inch tube angel food cake, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 pint strawberries or raspberries

In large mixer bowl, place instant pudding mix, sour cream, milk and orange peel.

Mix on low speed 1 to 2 minutes or until thick and well-mixed.

Fold in Cool Whip. In large serving bowl layer 1/2 of the cake pieces, 1/3 berries and 1/2 pudding mixture.

Repeat layers. Arrange remaining berries on top.

Cover. Chill 2 hours or more. Makes 8 servings.


3/4 cup Crisco

1 1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

Add and beat well

cup molasses


2 cups flour

1 tablespoon ginger

2 teaspoons soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine dry ingredients and stir in.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Contact Doug?Clough at douglasclough@gmail.com.

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