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Author of her own cookbook

By Staff | May 11, 2012

Rachel Masters flips a Swedish pancake in one of two skillets she uses to keep them coming to her family of eight. Masters is of Swedish descent and is part of a strong farming lineage, which includes her mother’s home cooking. “My mom is the real farm cook in this story,” said Masters. “She can still cook up a storm.  She is the reason that I know how to cook, and that I know how important it is to consistently plan to cook.”


Farm News staff writer

KIRON – For Rachel Masters two things are certain: she knows how to work hard and how to make a mean Swedish pancake supper.

It should be no surprise then that Masters has both a farming and Swedish background – and both have had a great influence as she developed her own cookbook, complete with meal planners and weekly shopping lists.

Masters’ father, the late Jim Gustafson, farmed as did the family settler, Elias Munsson, who came to Crawford County from Sweden in 1867.

Masters had the idea for a cookbook when, in 1998. Masters formed a brainchild of taking her main dishes and sorting them into 13 weeks of meals. “It was pretty good,” stated Masters. “It got to be a much better idea when I added side dishes for each meal with a snack for each week.”

“Over the years, our land has produced corn, beans and oats, although my dad specialized in alfalfa,” said Masters. “Of course, like a lot of farmers we had pigs and a cow-calf operation.”

Masters’ work ethic came honestly as did her ability to create “good home cookin’.”

Her mother, Mary Gustafson, was a stay-at-home mom who cooked far more than the average woman to prepare meals and snacks for the hired hands.

“My mom is the real farm cook in this story,” Masters said. “She’s still active in our community and can still cook up a storm.

“She is the reason that I know how to cook and that I know how important it is to consistently plan to cook – and follow through – for your family when you live miles from the nearest restaurant.”

That background, coupled with her life as a stay-at-home mom, who also home schools her children, turned into the perfect ingredients for a much sought-after cookbook.

“I found that I had a huge stack of recipes just sitting in my kitchen to be sorted through every evening when I needed to cook,” Masters said. “I needed to get organized; otherwise, I’d be faced with hungry kids and frozen pizza and I didn’t want either.”

The cookbook idea came into its infancy when, in 1998, her toddler son Nathan was napping, and Masters had the idea of taking her main dishes and sorting them into 13 weeks of meals. She started writing them on index cards.

“It was pretty good,” Masters said. “It got to be a much better idea when I added side dishes for each meal with a snack for each week.”

The idea improved again when she wrote out weekly grocery lists to accompany the weekly meals.

“I was sharing the idea of meal planning at a Mothers of Preschoolers meeting when a mom said, ‘Can you just give us the lists with the recipes?'”

And with that comment, the cookbook idea matured.

Masters transferred the index cards and lists into a three-ring notebook. In 2004, she typed everything and printed 30 copies for friends and family to use, providing feedback. Still, the idea did not come to full fruition overnight; it took a few years to fine-tune the recipes.

Masters knew that working on a cookbook would take time, especially when her priority was managing a family of five, which, in 2005, became six.

“My husband (Darren) helped out a lot on top of his own work, and a lot was done when everyone else was sleeping,” she said.

After much feedback and editing the cookbook was ready for its first printing in 2006, when she ordered 500 copies.

“Those first 500 went fast,” said Darren Masters. “We found that if someone bought a book, they would also buy copies for their friends or family.”

Masters’ book, “Supper’s on the Table, Come Home, ” includes 13 weeks of meals and grocery lists as well as appendices that cover everything from eating from the garden to uick tips and resourceful ideas.

At the conclusion of the book, Masters reflects on what she’s learned about feeding children. The cookbook is now in its fifth printing with about 4,000 books are in circulation.

“Originally my ultimate dream would have been to appear on Oprah,” Masters said, “but I underestimated how good it would feel to know that others have benefitted from my work.

“I rely on the Lord for everything and He has given me joy in the little things. The simple pleasure of having someone drop me a note saying that the cookbook has helped them is worth more in the grand scheme of things than 15 minutes of fame.”

Masters has promoted her book through library talks, craft fairs and invitations to mother-focused groups.

“I’ve got to be careful on how many times I agree to speak somewhere,” Masters said. “There’s a household that’s running without me when I’m gone.”

Masters household includes her husband of 19 years, and six children – Nathan, 14; Amelia, 12: Elise, 9; Josh, 7; Annika, 5; and Jessica, 3.

Masters, who is every bit the farm cook as her own mother, has found that as her family has grown, her locally famous Swedish pancakes, which are included in her cookbook, have had to be made in “shifts.”

Masters’ contact and website information includes Masters at Everything Inc., 3650 Buchanan Ave., Kiron, Iowa 51448. She can be reched at (712) 675-4518 or www.schallertel.net/~rmasters.

Oven barbecued brisket

(Masters said her sister, Ruth Bethea, of Republic, Mo., finds recipes to serve at her get-togethers with neighbors. This one makes plenty to feed a crowd, although can be “pricey.” She recommends serving it with rice, as there is extra sauce to serve over everything.)

5 pounds beef brisket, untrimmed

4 tablespoons liquid smoke

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoon chili powder

1 can beef broth

Rub brisket with liquid smoke, then combine salts, sugar and chili powder and rub over brisket. Let it stand for 30 minutes or in refrigerate overnight.

Oil a large baking pan or roaster and pour in beef broth.

Place brisket, fat side up, in the pan, and cover tightly with foil. Bake at 325 degrees for four hours.

To serve, remove brisket from oven and place on a platter. Slice and pour a bit of warmed sauce over it. Serve with additional sauce.

Serves 12 to 16.

Homemade barbecue sauce

1 cup ketchup

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

4 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes.

Sirloin tips

(“A good Iowa neighbor shared this recipe with my mom,” Masters said, “and now we enjoy it, too.)

2 tablespoons butter or shortening

2 pounds round or sirloin steak, cubed to 1″ sq.

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion salt

1 can beef consomme

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Brown the cubed steak in melted butter or shortening until no longer pink (about 20 minutes).

Add the soy sauce, garlic powder, onion salt and consomme.

Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Blend the water and cornstarch, then add to the cooking meat and liquid. Stir until thickened. Serve over rice. Serves 4 to 6

Variation: Slice the steak into thin strips to cook and add cooked broccoli, carrot slices and/or green or red


French dip sandwiches

3- to 4-pound boneless roast (rolled rump is best)

1 can beef bouillon soup

1 package au jus sauce mix

1 package dry Italian salad dressing mix

Put everything in the crockpot and cook on high for one hour, then on low for 8 hours.

Remove and slice the roast, then strain the juices for au jus sauce.

To serve, pile sliced roast beef on split, individual French bread loaves, and top with cheese, if desired.

Cut each sandwich in half and serve with an individual cup or bowl of au jus sauce for dipping. Serves 6 to 8

Swedish pancakes

(Masters said that this recipe has been handed down for many generations. Her paternal grandparents were both full-blooded Swedes. It’s a Masters-family favorite and she finds that Swedish pancake night requires her “to stand in front of the stove for awhile.”)

2 eggs

2 1/2 cups milk

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cup flour

bacon drippings for cooking

Syrup, powdered sugar or berry preserves*

Mix first six ingredients in a large blender (or mix half of a recipe at a time in a smaller blender).

Melt about 1/2 teaspoon bacon drippings in a large frying pan over medium heat. Then pour in a small amount of pancake batter.

Pick up the pan and rotate it as necessary so the batter covers the entire bottom of the frying pan (it will be very thin).

Fry for about 3 minutes, then flip carefully with a large spatula.

Fry for about 3 more minutes, then put on a plate for serving. Continue frying one at a time until everyone has eaten enough.

To serve, spread the pancake with butter and syrup, then roll up from one edge into a long roll. Cut the rolle into bite-size pieces and enjoy. Serves 4.

*This is traditionally served with Swedish lingonberries, which Swedes also eat with potatoes and meat.

“We use homemade blueberry syrup,” Masters said, “but any type of berry preserves could easily replace the syrup to be the filling for these pancakes.”

Blueberry syrup

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup honey

1 cup white corn syrup

Blend the blueberries and lemon juice, then pour into a medium saucepan.

Add honey and corn syrup and heat over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Refrigerate any leftovers. Serves 8.

Bowtie pasta salad

(Masters said this goes especially well alongside grilled chicken or with slices of grilled chicken mixed in.)

1 1-pound box bowtie pasta

1/2 cup pesto

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries

2 stalks celery, washed and diced

1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon vinegar

Dash of pepper to taste

Toast the pine nuts by spreading them in a baking pan and bake at 325 degrees for 5 minutes or by stirring them in a hot skillet (without oil) for 1 to 3 minutes; let cool.

Cook pasta according to package directions, then drain and rinse under cold water. Mix in the pesto and mayonnaise.

Stir in all remaining ingredients, except cranberries, and chill for at least one hour.

To avoid staining the pasta, add cranberries just before serving.

Serves 8 to 10.

Contact Doug Clough at douglasclough@gmail.com.

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