homepage logo

She never stops learning

By Staff | Jun 22, 2012

-Farm News photo by Doug Clough BRENDA SCHUMACHER, of rural Ida Grove, wraps chicken halves in pastry as part of her unique take on chicken cordon bleu. She said she enjoys taking cookbook recipes and “tweaking them to make them my own.”


Farm News staff writer

IDA GROVE – Brenda Schumacher of rural Ida County has the best of all worlds when it comes to being schooled in cooking.

“My mom taught me quite a bit about working my way around the kitchen,” Schumacher said. “I remember baking cookies for my college-aged brothers. We were always sending something with them when they returned to school.”

Schumacher remembers working with cake mixes at first and a specific memorable run at Scotcharoos.

“For some odd reason,” she said, “I used corn oil instead of corn syrup.” Schumacher was “town-raised” in Holstein before marrying Dale Schumacher. “My mom kept saying, ‘Why didn’t you quit putting in more ingredients when you knew it didn’t look right?’

“For some reason, all that extra peanut butter and Rice Krispies just didn’t make those Scotcharoos taste any better.”

The Schumachers have reared four children – Crystal, Cassie, Dallas, and Tracey – who are all out on their own now.

“Those were fun, interesting years,” Schumacher said. “The girls participated in 4-H and did quite a bit of cooking themselves, and, of course, they always wanted to try complex recipes, so I continued to do some learning right along with them.”

Dale Schumacher said he remembered a particular mishap when bread rolls that daughter Cassie was making, slipped on to the oven door as she was putting them in to bake.

“Believe it or not,” Brenda Schumacher said, “she made it to the state level with that recipe, so we made it again.”

Cookbooks have had a strong influence on Schumacher’s learning as well. Two corners of her kitchen counter surface are dedicated to her library. She enjoys using Taste of Home and Pampered Chef recipe books among others.

As of nearly a decade ago, Schumacher began a formal learning experience via a new career.

“I began working for Horn Memorial Hospital in 2003 as the assistant dietary manager,” Schumacher said. “When I accepted the position, I agreed to the educational needs that came along with it. I’ve earned certifications for both dietary manager and food protection professional.

“I really enjoy my work and am continually learning. The staff at the hospital are great about trying new recipes.”

Schumacher’s forte is cheesecakes and pies – pumpkin pie is Dale’s favorite. For three years, she has provided both dessert items for the hospital’s foundation fundraising efforts. “I enjoy the special projects as well as creating recipes for someone besides, ‘Mr. Picky,'” indicating her husband. He said he favors her brisket and her chicken cordon bleu, not to mention her turtle cheesecake.

In addition to her cooking prowess, Schumacher also creates, promotes and sells appliqued sweatshirts and T-shirts at regional craft shows.

“It started from the 1980s craze on Cabbage Patch Dolls where I created a similar doll, then went to painted-wood items, and now primarily focus on my appliqued sweatshirts and T-shirts.” Schumacher attends craft shows in Council Bluffs, Des Moines and Little Falls, Minn., as well as many throughout Iowa, logging in 5,625 miles in 2011.

The Schumachers have been farming in Ida County since 1976. Dale Schumacher raised feeder hogs until 1991 and has been a cattleman with up to 500 head for the duration of his farm career. They have also farmed hay, corn and beans.

Chicken cordon bleu in pastry

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (4-ounces each)

1 8-ounce tub spreadable cream cheese, either chive and onion or garden vegetable flavor

4 thin slices deli ham

1 8-ounce tube refrigerated crescent rolls

4 slices Swiss cheese

Lightly coat chicken breast with canola oil and sprinkle with chicken seasoning. Place on baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

While chicken is baking, separate the crescent rolls into four rectangles and place on a baking sheet. Pinch to seal perforations. Spread 1 tablespoon cream cheese onto each slice of ham.

After 20 minutes, remove chicken from oven and wrap each breast in one slice of ham with cream cheese side next to the chicken.

Place wrapped chicken breast on rectangle of dough. Pinch corners of dough together on ends to form points.

Place the dough-wrapped chicken back into oven and bake an additional 15 minutes.

When pastry is golden brown, remove pan from oven and top each pastry with 1 slice Swiss cheese. Return pan to oven and bake for 5 minutes to melt cheese.

Raspberry angel

food trifle

1 angel food cake, cut into bite-size pieces

2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

16 ounces Cool Whip

2 12-ounce packages frozen or fresh raspberries

3 kiwi

Mix cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip.

Place 1/2 of the angel food pieces in the bottom of a large, clear bowl.

Spread half of the cream cheese mixture over the cake pieces. Top with half of the raspberries.

Repeat layers with the remaining ingredients.

Peel the kiwi and cut into slices. Use to garnish the top of the trifle.

Must be refrigerated.

Texas brisket

(“This recipe was given to me by my brother, Jim,” Brenda Schumacher said, “who lives in Texas. He has a smoker that he cooks his in, but it is also wonderful done in the oven. We served this at all of our children’s graduation parties and still make it when the gang is back.)

Beef brisket

1 cup Worcestershire sauce

2 cups barbecue sauce

Trim all fat from brisket. Place in large roaster.

Pour 1 cup of Worcestershire sauce over meat. Pour a generous amount of barbec0ue sauce over the top, about 2 cups.

Cover and bake in oven at 250 degrees for 6 hours. Slice into thin slices across the grain of the meat.

Chicken taco soup

4 chicken breasts, diced and cooked

1 11-ounce can diced tomatoes and chilis

1 28ounce can diced tomatoes

1 4-ounce can green chilis

1 15-ounce can kidney beans

1 15-ounce can black beans

1 15-ounce can whole kernel corn

1 46-ounce can tomato juice

1 package taco seasoning mix

1 package ranch dressing mix

Combine all ingredients in large crockpot. Do not drain any of the canned goods. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.

Garnish with sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped green onions and tortilla chips.

Turtle cheesecake

(The secret to making a great cheesecake is totally lining the springform pan with parchment paper. Trace the bottom of the pan onto the parchment paper and cut out. Then cut long, 3-inch strips of parchment paper for the sides. Spray the inside of the springform pan with cooking oil and then place the parchment paper onto the surfaces.)


1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup margarine, melted

1/4 cup sugar


20 caramel candies

2 tablespoons milk

1/2 cup chopped pecans

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 12-ounce package semi sweet chocolate chips, melted

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

Crust: Combine all the crust ingredients and pour into prepared pan.

Using a large spoon, spread the crumb mixture evenly across the bottom and up 1 inch around the edge.

Filling: Unwrap caramels and place in microwave proof bowl. Add milk and microwave until caramels are melted, stirring often.

Pour caramel mixture over crust and top with chopped pecans.

Pour sweetened condensed milk into mixer bowl. Start mixer and add cream cheese one block at a time. Continue mixing until mixture is smooth.

Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until smooth. Pour in melted chocolate and vanilla, mixing well.

Pour filling over caramel and pecans. Bake 1 hour at 300 degrees or until center is set.

Turn off oven and leave cheesecake in oven for an additional hour. Remove cheesecake from oven and let cool to room temperature.

Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Remove sides of springform pan and invert cheesecake onto a plate.

Remove all parchment paper and invert cake onto serving platter. Place pecan halves over top of cheesecake.

Melt five additional caramels with 1 teaspoon of milk and drizzle over top of sides of cake and pecans. Melt 1/4 cup chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup and drizzle over top and sides.

Contact Doug Clough at douglasclough@gmail.com.

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page