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Early life lessons serve her well

By Staff | Aug 5, 2011

Audrey Dittmer, of rural Holstein, adds kidney beans to her Mexican steak and beans dish. “When creating a meal, I like to start with the meat as the focus. This meal is perfect because it has the vegetables right in with it,” Dittmer said. “All I do is add rolls and a dessert.” Dittmer and husband Loren retired just a mile away from their farmstead where the couple grew corn and soybeans, and raised livestock before retiring in 1990.

HOLSTEIN – Loren Dittmer doesn’t make it a habit to complain about wife Audrey’s cooking. He just doesn’t have much to offer in the way of criticism.

“When I asked Loren what recipes I should offer for Farm News,”?Audrey Dittmer said, “he said, ‘It’s all good.'”

All farm wives should have such a problem.

His comment is high praise, as the Dittmers will celebrate their 56th wedding anniversary this year.

One may think he would have had an opportunity to scrutinize here or there, but he hasn’t had the need. His favorite?

Audrey Dittmer, a 40-year veteran of the Ida County Fair, shows off her raspberry bars and apricot raspberry jam. Both are made from fresh raspberries she grows in her garden. “I’m no master gardener, but I enjoy working with the produce that I grow,” Dittmer said.

“My cookies,”?Audrey Dittmer said. “Of course, if they’ve got chocolate in them, that’s all the better for him.”

Prior to their current residence of 21 years, the Dittmers lived at their farm home a mile north, where they grew beans, corn, hay and raised hogs until retirement in 1990. Their son, Kent Dittmer, now farms the land. Their daughter, Nancy Dittmer, lives in Clive.

Dittmer said she favors baking above all kinds of other cooking. “My mother was a farm wife and excellent cook,” she noted. “I learned to cook at a young age at home, then in 4-H and continued to learn in high school home economics.

“I’ve always enjoyed cooking bread, bars, and pies as well as cookies.”

Ida County residents have long known of Dittmer’s cooking as well as four decades of her fashion talents at the county fair.

“I use to sew everything I ever wore,” Dittmer stated. “It’s been a good fit for me to work the fair’s fashion department where I managed the entries and the judge’s comments on them.

“I’m also there on closing day to dismiss the items – 35 items in sewing this year.

“I always figure that since I’m there, I may as well enter some fashions and food as well.”

This year, she earned a first-place finish with her bing cherries in the preserved foods class.

“My biggest surprise was the purple ribbon for my rhubarb,” Dittmer said. “The judge felt that my three stalks looked pretty good for this time of year, especially with the winds that have flattened out a lot of rhubarb.

“I guess I chose the right three stalks.”

Not a fan of pie, Dittmer said she uses her produce for other treats. “My rhubarb ends up in a crisp.

“I also use it in a sauce where I use Jell-o to stiffen it up a bit, and jam, where I’ll add different pie fillings to take the tartness away.

“It’s still important to taste the rhubarb, though.”

Dittmer, who entered 12 baked goods at the Ida County Fair, also came away with the best baked good, her raspberry bars, which sport a thin layer of tasty raspberry, sandwiched between a light, crumbly crust.

And, by the way, at the Ida County Fair this year, she won best in show in the fashions open class with a jacket and best senior in needlework with a hardanger piece.

Cucumber salad

3-4 cucumbers, sliced

2 onions

2 tablespoons salt

Mix and let set for 20 minutes, then rinse and drain.


1 cup celery, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

2 tomatoes


1/2 cup vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon salad oil

Dill weed and celery seed to taste

Refrigerate for several hours.

Toffee almond sandies

3 1/2 cup flour

1 cup butter

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

2 cups chopped almonds

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 6-ounce package toffee bits

Cream butter and sugars. Add oil, eggs and extract; mix well. Combine flours, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture.

Stir in almonds and toffee bits. Shape into 1-inch balls; roll in sugar. Place on ungreased baking sheets; flatten with fork.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes 8 dozen.

Apricot raspberry jam

4 cups peeled and coarsely chopped apricots

1 1/2 cups raspberries

3 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

Combine water and apricots, cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally for about l0 minutes.

Add sugar and raspberries. Bring to boil and cook to jelly stage (220 degrees) stirring constantly.

Put in jars and process for 5 minutes in boiling water bath.

Raspberry bars

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

3/4 cup quick cooking oats

1/2 cup red raspberry jam.

1/2 cup oleo

Mix flour, oats and sugar. Cut in oleo. Stir in extract. Reserve 1 cup of this mixture.

Press remainder in 8-inch-square pan, greased.

Spread preserves over top to about 1/2-inch from edge.

Sprinkle reserved oat mixture over top and press down gently.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Mexican steak and beans

1 pound round steak

1/4 cup chili sauce

1 tablespoon flour

1 medium chopped onion

1 teaspoon chili powder

3/4 cup diced celery

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 carrot sliced

1 tablespoon salad oil

1 can kidney beans

Cut meat into 1-inch cubes. Mix flour, chili powder and salt and coat meat. Brown in oil.

Stir in water, chili sauce, onion, celery and carrot.

Simmer for 30 minutes or until tender.

Stir in kidney beans with liquid and simmer until beans are hot.

Contact Doug Clough at douglasclough@gmail.com.

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