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ISU’s ‘Chef of the Day’

By Staff | Nov 11, 2011

Nancy Reilly slices pork loin in her kitchen in rural Gilbert.


Farm News staff writer

GILBERT – Nancy Reilly comes from a long line of talented cooks, and that inherited talent that’s provided her an income.

“My great-grandma, grandma and my mom were all good cooks,” said Reilly. “I remember my great-grandma showing me how to make oatmeal cookies when I was in second grade.”

Reilly also recalls, when she was 5 or 6, helping her mother fry chicken, how she added too much flour, but mom helped her correct that mistake.

Roasted vegetables.

Reilly said her mother was an excellent pie baker and made the best sweet pickles and pickled beets.

Reilly said she and her sister learned to make bars and cookies. Apricot dream bars that won a blue ribbon at her county’s 4-H fair, are treats she still makes today.

Reilly carries on the tradition of baking with family when she gathers with grandchildren, preparing made-from-scratch chocolate cake, three-berry pie, cookies, homemade syrup, their annual Christmas cookie decoration, and everyone’s favorite, macaroni and cheese.

Decorating cakes is a hobby for Reilly, and provided income to her family for quite some time.

Reilly learned the art of decorating cakes 23 years ago while working at a bakery. When the back-up cake decorator quit, Reilly stepped up.

Apple spice cake.

After three Wilton cake decorating courses and on-the-job training, she learned the craft.

She’s been decorating cakes at home for 21 years. She was an on-call cake decorator for the Carousel Tea Room in Story City.

She baked all of her children’s graduation cakes, as well as the wedding cakes for her three daughters.

Her current job as a cook at ISU Dining for the last five years has interupted her wedding cake business, but she said she will still bake and decorate cakes for close friends and family.

In addition to baking cakes, Reilly said she enjoys making lasagna and pork. The Reillys are pork producers, in addition to raising corn and soybeans.

“I remember my great-grandma showing me how to make oatmeal cookies when I was in second grade.” —Nancy Reilly ISU Dining cook

Adjusting from cooking for large quantities to cooking for two is hard, Reilly said.

“The thing about working at ISU is to think big quantities,” said Reilly. “For instance, I can’t make one pan of meat loaf, I have to make three and put two in the freezer.”

One of Reilly’s hobbies is clipping recipes and then tweaking them to give them a different flavor or using whatever ingredients she may have on hand.

Reilly is on the baking committee at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, in Ames. When she is out of the kitchen she enjoys jogging 5K road races, tending her gardens and helping out with field work and chores.

Reilly and her husband, Terry, have been married 38 years and have four children and eight grandchildren, with the ninth on the way.

Farmer’s casserole

2 pounds ground pork, beef or turkey

1 8-ounce package of egg noodles, cooked

2 cans chicken and rice soup

2 cans cream of mushroom soup

1 teaspoon coriander

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

Dash of cayenne pepper

Combine. Add 8 ounces of melted Velveeta cheese and bake, covered at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Serves 15.

ISU yellow squash

drop biscuits

(Reilly was featured “Chef of the Day” at ISU Dining on Oct. 8 and allowed to make anything she wanted. She came up with this recipe.)

1/3 cup, plus one tablespoon, pureed yellow squash (about 1 1/4 pounds)

1/2 cup milk with three or four drops of yellow food coloring

1 tablespoon red pepper, minced (one medium)

1 1/2 teaspoons Tone’s Garden Seasoning

2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons, flour

1 tablespoon, plus 1/2 teaspoon, baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Wash, pare and scoop the seeds out of the squash and cut up. Cook in a saucepan with a small amount of water until soft. Mash or use a food processer and cool.

Combine all of the ingredients and stir well. Drop on a baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.


Brush biscuits with 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder mixed with 3 tablespoons melted butter and then sprinkle with paprika.

Pork loin with herb crust

1 3- to 4-pound loin roast

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 large basil leaves, minced or 1 teaspoon basil

4 parsley sprigs, minced or 1 teaspoon parsley

2 tablespoons red onion, minced

1 1/4 teaspoons Tone’s Garden Seasoning

1 teaspoon rosemary leaves

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub pork with olive oil and herb mixture.

Place pork on a rack and roast for 1 1/4- to 1 1/2 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest portion registers a minimum temperature of 145 degrees held for four minutes; medium doneness of 155 to 160-degrees or well done at 170 degrees.

Apple spice cake

1 spice cake mix

1 21-ounce can apple pie filling

4 jumbo eggs

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cloves

2 teaspoons rum or brandy (optional)

Mix all ingredients and stir well. Pour batter into a greased and floured 9-by-13-inch pan or two, 9-inch layer pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.

Carmel sauce

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1/4 cup cream

1/2 teaspoon caramel extract or vanilla

Heat butter in a saucepan until melted. Stir in brown sugar.

Heat to boiling, stirring constantly for one minute; stir in milk, cream and flavoring. Remove from heat.

Serve warm or cold and store any remaining sauce in the refrigerator.

Candied pineapple granola bars

2 cups rolled oats

1/3 cup flaxseed or wheat germ

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup white or chocolate chips

2 8-ounce packages of candied pineapple, chopped very fine, or 1 12-ounce package dried pineapple with 3 tablespoons corn syrup added)

1 14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup coconut

1/2 teaspoon pina colada flavoring (optional)

Chop the pineapple using a food processor. Mix together and spread on a sprayed, aluminum foil-lined 9-by-13-inch cake pan.

Be sure the foil goes on the sides for easy removal. Bake at 325 degrees for 22 to 25 minutes.

Variation: Dried apricot.

Omit the pineapple, coconut, pecans, chocolate chips and flavoring.

Replace with 1 1/4 cups dried apricots, chopped; 1/2 cup butterscotch chips, 1 cup chopped walnuts and 1/2 teaspoon apricot flavoring (optional).

Fresh roasted


(Courtesy ISU Dining)

6 3/4 ounces, about 1/2 pound, zucchini

6 3/4 ounces, about 1/2 pound, yellow squash

6 3/4 ounces, or two large, carrots

6 3/4 ounces, or one medium, red onion

3 1/4 ounces (approximately 1/2 cup) red peppers

3 1/4 ounces, approximately 1/2 cup, yellow peppers

6 3/4 ounces, or 1 cup, grape tomatoes, washed and trimmed

6 3/4 ounces, about 1/2 pound, fresh asparagus

3/4 teaspoon olive oil

Dash table salt and black pepper

Slice all vegetables 1/8-inch by 2-inch strips on the diagonal except for the tomatoes, onion and asparagus.

Slice the onion into 1/8-inch slices. Slice asparagus two inches long on the diagonal.

Combine and mix gently all the vegetables and add olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place onto a sheet pan and roast in the oven at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.

Contact Kriss Nelson at jknelson@frontiernet.net.

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