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Teaching at the Windmill Cafe

By Staff | Jun 15, 2012

Ruth Halverson cuts into a freshly baked rhubarb cake. Halvorson is a family life sciences instructor at South Hardin High?School in Eldora.


Farm News staff writer

NEW PROVIDENCE – Ruth Halvorsen may have the summer off from her teaching duties at South Hardin High School in Eldora, where she has taught home economics for 19 years, but that does not mean she is sleeping late and taking it easy on the crop and hog farm the Halvorsen family operates near New Providence.

She said she grew up in nearby St Anthony on a “typical 1960s farm” with crops and livestock. She watched her mother and grandmother cook when she was growing up and was inspired by her grandmother who made pies daily for sale to restaurants.

Her husband, Doug Halverson, had a farm background and, in 1996, they moved to their current farm when an opportunity was presented to them. The farm was already in the hog business, but was using buildings in an outdoor environment. Since then, they have built confinement buildings for their hogs and modernized the farm.

Ruth Halvorsen graduated from the University of Northern Iowa prepared to teach home economics because she wanted to make a difference in kids’ lives, make them employable and give them life skills.

What has been known as home economics has gone through changes in years in its name and in the makeup of its students. Halvorsen said that in her cooking classes, about half the class is boys.

It is in the school’s Windmill Cafe where she sees the greatest learning by her students.

Designed for students enrolled in Food and Nutrition II, the Windmill Cafe class is held during lunch time with a meal prepared and served by the students every Thursday to 40 to 50 members of the community. This has been part of the curriculum for 12 years.

One group operates the Windmill Cafe starting in November and going through mid-January. A second group does the same procedure from February through mid-March.

Her routine includes:

  • Monday, Halvorsen buys the ingredients for that week’s meal with the students deciding what will be served.
  • Tuesday, the meal is prepared and served to the class for evaluation.
  • Wednesday is preparation day for Thursday’ serving of the meal.
  • Thursday, a three-course meal is served that has an appetizer, main course, dessert and beverage.

Students will have chosen a theme for the meal, decorated accordingly, and included entertainment such as music or a Power Point presentation.

  • Friday is the day to kick back, evaluate, and read the feedback forms completed by Thursday’s customers.

A head chef is chosen each week with each student having that position during the course’s run.

Halvorsen said the Windmill Cafe teaches students teamwork and creates employability and management skills.

During Halvorsen’s teaching tenure, two of her students have gone on to college with the goal of becoming home economics teachers.

Rhubarb cake

1/2 cup butter or oleo

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

3 cups rhubarb (diced)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teasppon salt

1 teaspoon soda

2 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg. Add buttermilk, vanilla and flour mixture.

Add rhubarb. Before putting in oven, sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

Barbecue meat balls

Meat balls

2 pounds hamburger

3/4 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup milk

3 tablespoons minced onion

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/21 teaspoon pepper


4 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 cups catsup

3 tablespoons vinegar

1 cup water

Mix meatball ingredients together and form into balls.

Place meat balls into a 9-by-13-inch cake pan. Brown underneath broiler in oven, rolling over to do backside.

Stir together sauce ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour sauce over meatballs.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Yields to 6 servings.

Fresh apple cookies

1/2 cup shortening

1 1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup finely chopped, unpeeled apples


1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Cream shortening; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add egg and milk; beat well.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add to creamed mixture, mixing well.

Stir in apples. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls, 1 1/2 inches apart, onto a greased cookie sheet.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Frost with powdered sugar, salt, milk, margarine and vanilla. Beat until smooth.



2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast

1/3 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)

9 cups flour, divided

2 cups warm milk (110-115 degrees)

1 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

6 eggs

2 teaspoons salt

3-4 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add 4 cups flour, milk, shortening, sugar, eggs and salt.

Beat for 2 minutes or until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured board and knead lightly. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 to 3 hours.

Punch dough down; divide into four equal parts. Roll each into a 9-inch circle; brush with butter.

Cut each circle into eight pie shaped wedges; roll up each wedge from wide edge to tip of dough and pinch to seal.

Place rolls, tip down, on baking sheets; freeze. When frozen, place in freezer bags and keep frozen until needed.

To bake, place on greased baking sheets; thaw 5 hours or until doubled in size.

Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from baking sheets and serve immediately or cool on wire racks.

Yield: 32 rolls.

Peanut butter cookies

In a large bowl with a wood spoon mix

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup shortening

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) margarine or butter, softened

1 large egg

Stir in

1 1/4 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Put balls about 3 inches apart on cookie sheet.

Flatten balls gently in crisscross pattern with fork dipped in sugar.

Bake at 375 degrees for 9 to 10 minutes or until light brown.

Yields about 36 cookies.

Decorator frosting

1/2 cup margarine

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

4 cups powdered sugar

3 to 4 teaspoons milk

In a mixing bowl, combine margarine, shortening and vanilla.

Beat at medium speed until creamy. Add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating at a low speed until blended.

Add milk. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.

Beat in food coloring, one drop at a time, until frosting is desired color. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Peanut butter fingers

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

Cream well

Blend and add

1/3 cup peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon soda

1 cup flour

1 cup oatmeal

Spread in a 9-by-13-inch greased pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle 1 cup of chocolate chips on top.

Let stand 5 minutes.

Spread topping:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup peanut butter

2 to 4 tablespoons milk

Drizzle over chocolate

Carmel corn

8 pints popped corn

2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup white syrup

2 sticks margarine

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Boil for 5 minutes brown sugar, syrup and oleo.

Remove from heat and add baking soda.

Pour over corn in large pan.

Stir well and bake at 200 degrees for 45 minutes.

Stir every 15 minutes.

Pour on waxed paper to cool.

Contact Clayton Rye at crye@wctatel.net.

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