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A ‘self-educated cook’

By Staff | Oct 14, 2011

Mary Dreeszen, of Cushing, brushes glaze on her Polynesian pork roast. Prior to switching to crop farming only, her husband, Roger, raised more than 600 head of hogs on their farm north of Cushing. The Dreeszens are the third generation to be on their farm, which will qualify for Century Farm honors in 2019.

CUSHING – It makes sense as a long time 4-H participant, Extension 4-H youth leader and volunteer that Mary Dreeszen “would rather sew, quilt, or cook than clean any day.”

Being a realist, she confides that she “simply can’t do it all.”

Avid at sewing for many years, and now quilting, she’s no slouch at cooking either.

At the 2011 Ida County Fair, she entered toffee, banana muffins, ginger snaps and peach pie.

She said her pie is her husband Roger’s favorite. One pie entry won a first place honor at the 2011 Ida County Fair.

Mary Dreeszen puts the finishing touches on her strawberry pie. “I prefer to spread whipped topping over the whole pie,” said Dreeszen. “The remainder of the sliced strawberries makes for a nice garnish.”

“I enjoy baking more than any other kind of cooking,” said Mary Dreeszen, who is known for providing her wares for church and other functions.

The Dreeszens attend St. John Lutheran Church, in Cushing, where she is known for her scotcharoos and her chocolate chip cookies.

“I’ve been self-educated in the cooking department, learning on an experience and need-to-know basis,” she said.

Dreeszen is also one of the few users of pressure-cooking.

“I really don’t know why so few people use pressure cooking. I use it for quick, thorough cooking,” she said. “The steam cooks through the food quickly, so it works great for … vegetables, meat and stew.”

She noted that while the method thoroughly cooks meat, it doesn’t brown it, so other means should be used if that is desired.

When the Dreeszens started their family, she took her skills to their farm family and community full-time. “I truly believe in the value of the 4-H program, especially the communications department,” she said. “Both Roger and I were in 4-H growing up, so our kids had no other choice but to grow up with the benefit of 4-H, too.”

The family farm, just north of Cushing, has been home to the Dreeszens for three generations. Roger and previous generations were pork producers until a couple years ago.

In previous years, they raised more than 600 head of hogs. The Dreeszen operation is strictly soybeans and corn on 420 acres.

In eight years, Dreeszen said, the family will be celebrating as a Century Farm.

This northwest Iowa cook has had an impact on her home turf for more than a few decades. Dreeszen is largely responsible for the “Pride of Iowa” cooking contest that 4-H programs in several Northwest Iowa counties offer at fair time.

The contest came as a result of her bringing the concept from her 4-H days in Cass County. She introduced the idea during her stint as Extension 4-H and Youth Leader in Ida and Sac counties in 1976.

Although she may not be able to “do it all,” Dreeszen has given it a try.

Earning her way into the 2010 Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame, Dreeszen has been involved in 4-H activities as county youth leader for Ida, Sac and Cherokee from 1976 to 1982 and as a club leader for 15 years.

On the county level, Dreeszen has been a Clover Kids program coordinator and has served as a clothing superintendent, style show coordinator and record book evaluator at fair time.

She was named Ida County 4-H Leader of the Year in 1999 and 2008.

Pie crust

For one double crust:

1 3/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons cold water

For one single crust:

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons cold water

Cut flour, salt and oil together. Add water and mix together.

Divide in two for double crust.

Roll dough between two pieces of waxed paper, wetting surface first.

The less the crust dough is worked, the more tender and flaky it will be.

Bake single crust in 425 degree oven for 12 minutes. Prick bottom of crust to prevent shrinking. Let cool before adding filling.

Strawberry pie


3 cups strawberries, cut up in slices

In saucepan combine:

1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons corn starch

1 1/2 cups water


1 3-ounce package strawberry Jell-o (may use sugar free).

Use prepared crust. Place strawberries in cooled crust.

Bring contents of saucepan to boil, stirring constantly until clear. Boil 2 to 5 minutes longer.

Add Jell-o and stir until dissolved. Pour over strawberries.

Chill until set.

May serve with or without whipped topping or let each person add his own.

Another option is to completely cover pie with whipped topping, garnishing with strawberries.

Polynesian pork roast

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple (drained)

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon orange zest, grated

1 tablespoon lemon zest, grated

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder (or any pork roast)

In a saucepan, mix corn starch and sugar. Add remaining ingredients with the exception of pork.

Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly until thickened.

Place roast in a slow cooker, lined with a crock pot liner for easy clean-up. Pour half of fruit glaze over roast. Reserve remaining glaze.

Cover slow cooker; cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or 4 to 5 hours on high.

Warm reserved glaze on low heat and serve over the pork.

Makes at least eight servings.

Banana muffins

with streusel topping


1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 large ripe bananas, mashed

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/3 cup butter, melted


1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon cold butter

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (or to taste)

1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)

In a large bowl, mix the first four ingredients and set aside.

Mix bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Stir into dry mixture just until moistened. Do not over stir. Batter will be lumpy.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full.

Combine brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over muffin batter.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, until muffins test done.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes.

Swiss-style green beans

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon grated onion

1 cup sour cream

4 cup drained green beans

1/2 pound grated Swiss cheese

2 cups corn or wheat flakes

3 tablespoons melted butter

In a saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in flour, salt, pepper and onion.

Add sour cream, stirring constantly. Cook until thickened, stirring occasionally.

Fold in drained green beans and heat thoroughly.

Pour into greased 1 1/2 quart casserole dish.

Sprinkle grated Swiss cheese over beans.

Crush flakes into fine crumbs. Melt the 3 tablespoons butter and mix with crumbs.

Sprinkle over cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Contact Doug Clough at douglasclough@gmail.com.

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