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Leading by example

By Staff | Jul 27, 2012

MARY ROHLK, of rural Arthur, serves up some of her homemade chili at last Saturday’s soup and salsa competition at the Ida County Fair. In addition to the chili, Rohlk also entered her Italian corn salsa, which she created using items from her garden. “Salsa is fun to make,” said Rohlk, “because you doctor it up, making many different variations.



IDA GROVE – At the Ida County Fair, it’s more than fair to say that Mary Rohlk leads by example.

This 20-year 4-H leader and current president of the county 4-H committee is ever-present during the annual late July event.

She was the emcee for the sheep show, superintendent for the rabbit show, and wrote comments for exhibit hall presenters this year. She not only displays leadership at the fair, she is also a participant.

PART OF THE soup and salsa contest required entrants to have an engaging presentation. To accentuate the Italian side of her salsa creation, Rohlk included a picture from her daughter Brenda’s trip to Italy. Rohlk and her husband, Kyle, have three children, who were all nine-year members of 4-H.

Among all her venues of service this year, she still made time to enter the soup and salsa competition on Saturday at the fair.

“I enjoy canning many different things that come from my garden,” Rohlk said. “Salsa is one of those foods where I get to use a lot of that produce.

“I also like to do variations on other recipes and salsa can be made in lots of different ways with different ingredients.”

Rohlk sources sweet corn, however, from her father, Pete Houska. He grows enough that she can use her garden space for diverse produce.

The salsa competition is in its second year at the fair. Last year’s late-garden growing season stymied efforts to get the event off the ground, but this year is a different story.

“The superintendents have opened the event to store-bought produce this year, just in case,” Rohlk said. The contest also focuses on display creativity and presentation.

Rohlk and her husband, Kyle, live in the Arthur area and farm corn on their 80 acres. The couple has three grown children. Like their mother, they have all entered items in the county fair that have made it to Des Moines. All three are nine-year members of 4-H.

“My mom encouraged me to cook,” Rohlk said. “So I’ve also encouraged my kids. All three have had different pies make it to the state fair,” Rohlk said. “I’d like to think that I’ve passed a love for cooking down to my own kids.”

Rohlk was reared with five brothers, who have learned to cook as well.

As a testament to Rohlk’s strong family cooking background, she uses her grandmother Florence Houska’s angel food cake pan that was willed to her. The large pan is a sterling example of how baking is her favorite type of cooking.”

I get the greatest comments about the size of that pan,” Rohlk said.

Rohlk also helps out at the Shelby County Fair and Sac County Fair, where she evaluates personal development of 4-H participants. She is also a teacher-librarian for the Odebolt-Arthur and Battle Creek-Ida Grove school districts.

Italian corn salsa

3 cups sweet corn

1/4 cup diced onion

1 cup chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

Cook corn on the cob, cool, and cut from cob. Dice onion. Core tomatoes and cut into parts. Remove seeds and juice into a bowl and set aside.

Chop tomatoes. Seed and chop green pepper. Stir all vegetables together. Wash and remove stem end of basil. Finely chop.

Add olive oil and basil to tomato seeds and juice. Pour over corn mixture. Stir.

Refrigerate in covered bowl. Stir before serving. The flavor develops the longer it sits.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Bread machine honey

wheat rolls

(This is a requested item when planning family dinners, as well as Relay for Life lunches at school, Rohlk said.)

Place in bread machine in this order:

1 cup milk

1/2 cup margarine, softened

2 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 1/4 cups bread flour

1/4 cup wheat germ

2 1/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast (1 package)

Set machine on dough setting. When done, dump onto floured counter and let sit 10 minutes before shaping.

Cut into 12 to 18 equal-sized pieces and shape by tucking dough into a ball. Place in greased jelly roll pan.

Cover and let rise 30 to 45 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes. Brush tops with butter while still hot.

Note: 12 will make burger buns (flatten down when shaping)

18 will make nice sized dinner rolls.

Angel food cake

(Measuring exactly is very important in this recipe, Rohlk said.)

1 cup cake flour (sift before measuring)

7/8 cup sugar (measure 3/4 cup and add 2 tablespoons)

11/2 cups egg whites

11/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring

11/2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring

3/4 cup sugar

Sift cake flour and measure. Measure 7/8 cup sugar. Sift both ingredients together; run through the sifter three times to mix. Set aside.

Place the next five ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer until foamy.

Add the 3/4 cup sugar by tablespoons; beat well after each addition. Beat until egg whites hold a peak.

Sift in flour and sugar mixture, with mixer on lowest speed.

Press into ungreased angel food cake pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

Inside cracks should feel dry to the touch. If sticky, bake a minute or two more.

Invert cake pan upside down to cool.

Pie crust

3 cups flour

1 cup cold lard (only lard)

1 egg yolk; add ice cold water to make 1/2 cup

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Mix flour and salt. Cut in cold lard.

Mix egg, water and lemon juice. Stir into flour until just mixed.

Add small amounts of additional water if too dry. Form into three balls. Roll out and place into pie plate.

This recipe makes three 9-inch pie crusts, or one two-crust pie and one single. If using 8-inch pans, recipe should be able to make two double-crust pies.

Sour cherry pie

(Brenda Rohlk’s state fair project)

2 pounds sour cherries; pitted fresh or frozen

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Put these ingredients in a pan. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute while stirring.

Cool to room temperature. Brush bottom pie crust with egg white. Put filling in the crust. Place top pie crust and seal edges with water between crusts. Cut slits in top crust. Brush top crust with a little milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 35 minutes at 400 degrees.

Red hot apple pie

(Brent Rohlk’s state fair project)

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

Dash of salt

3 tablespoons red hot candies

Five to seven tart apples; peeled and sliced

Mix in a bowl and put into 9-inch pie crust. Add top crust and seal with

Put slits in crust. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 50 minutes at 400 degrees.

Triple berry pie

(Barbara Rohlk’s state fair project)

4 cups berries (your choice, usually red raspberries, blue berries and black raspberries)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour

Mix in a bowl and put in 9-inch pie crust. Add top crust and seal with water.

Bake 15 minutes at 450 degrees.

Reduce temperature to 375 degrees and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes.

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