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4-H started cooking ‘career’

By Staff | Nov 2, 2012

TERESA LOERTS spreads a layer of mashed avocado on her Mexican dip recipe. She said she doesn’t use avocado often, but that it’s delicious in this recipe.



MILFORD – Stepping into Teresa Loerts’ 150-year-old kitchen, it doesn’t take long to see that she’s all about life on the farm and life with her family.

Her curtains have a farm theme. She has a farm wallpaper border decorating the room. She has bake ware and dinner ware that are adorned with the likeness of farm animals, and she has farm decor and family pictures across the walls and on her refrigerator.

“We’ve lived on the farm for 34 years, but if I had it to do over, I would have chosen farm life sooner,” Loerts said as she prepared a pan of Mexican dip. “We were married in 1978 and lived in town for a few years first.

MEXICAN DIP, in foreground, is something on which Loerts’ family and friends enjoy snacking with tortilla chips. It’s a colorful addition to any table. She said it never lasts very long.

“We moved out here in 1984.”

Loerts, a Sibley native, grew up cooking, beginning with her entries in the Osceola County Fair. She was a nine-year member of the West Holman Prairie Farmers, which was the only co-ed 4-H club in Osceola County at the time.

“I showed dairy cattle and got a reserve grand champion heifer. That never happened at that time (for girls),” she said. “One year I wanted to bring an angel food cake, and I made eight of them (from scratch) before I got one that I could actually show at the fair.”

Since her 4-H cooking days, Loerts has gleaned many recipes and thumbed through a numerous cookbooks. Her favorite is a community cookbook she received as a Christmas gift from her husband, Doug Loerts, early in their marriage. It’s the cookbook she turns to almost without thinking when she needs a new recipe or wants to make some of the old stand-bys.

Some of the pages are spattered and others have writing in the margins. Some of her favorite cookies come from a Betty Crocker book called “The Cooky Book,” published in the early 1970s. Today, she also gets recipes online.

ONE OF THE family food favorites of the Doug and Teresa Loerts home are these li’l cheddar meat loaves. Made from a basic meat loaf base, the topping of ketchup and brown sugar gives them a sweet taste.

Her family’s favorites, she said, include banana bars, tuna and noodles, and her pie crust – made best with lard instead of solid shortening.

From “The Cooky Book,” her family enjoys peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies and candy cane cookies.

Her salted peanut cookies also rate high, she said, noting that lard turns them out perfectly.

Loerts tends to make a lot of food when she knows her grown children will be home. She said when guests are surprised to see the spread she lays out, her children say, “It’s always like this at Mom’s.”

Her early years in 4-H spilled over into her life as a mother. The Loerts’ three children grew up in 4-H, and she was a 4-H leader for 16 years. Six of those years were with the Okobojians and the other 10 years were with the Okoboji Ramblers. Both of those clubs have now disbanded.

LOERTS SAID SHE prefers using natural cheeses in the food she cooks, saying they’re less expensive and produce great results.

“I miss it,” she said, “but we’re still involved in 4-H by helping with sheep and goat weigh-ins and helping with that show. Doug’s on the fair board. It’s tough to be done with 4-H.”

Loerts said that 4-H teaches youths responsibility. “I always held the kids accountable,” she said. “If they said they were going to do something, I expected them to do it.”

Though Loerts said the biggest challenge of living on the farm is “keeping the livestock between the fences,” she wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“I love the quiet and the peace of coming home after a day at work,” she said. “There’s nothing better to hear the meadowlarks, or smell the fresh cut hay, or see a new calf running around in the pasture.”

When it comes to being a farm wife, Loerts takes it seriously. She and her husband have raised pigs, cattle and sheep, along with growing hay, corn and soybeans.

She was a stay-at-home mother while their children were small, and she was involved in the management and care of 2,500 head of hogs each year.

The Loertses pasture-farrowed their hogs then, but have no pigs now.

Loerts handles the daily livestock chores and whatever else needs to be done on the farm, since her husband’s jobs have taken him away from home often.

“At one time my husband had a job (where) he was home about one day a week,” she said. “While that was going on, (our boys) and I did whatever needed to be done on the farm.”

Loerts said that at lambing time they tend to have a few bottle lambs around. Back in the day, they used to purchase extra lambs from a friend.

“We might have (more than 30) bottle lambs at a time. It was my spending money,” she said. “And they all had names.”

Li’l Cheddar Meat Loaves

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon salt

1 pound lean ground beef

2/3 cup ketchup

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons prepared mustard

In a bowl, beat the egg and milk. Stir in cheese, oats, onion and salt. Add beef and mix well.

Shape into eight loaves; place in a greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Combine ketchup, brown sugar and mustard; spoon over loaves.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink and meat thermometer reads 160 degrees.

7-Layer Mexican Dip

1 16-ounce can refried beans

2 cups sour cream

1 1.25-ounce package taco seasoning mix

2 avocados, pitted, peeled and mashed

2 teaspoons lemon juice

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

4 green onions, diced

1/4 cup black olives, sliced

1 tomato, diced

Tortilla chips

Spread beans in bottom of 10-inch round or square clear glass dish; set aside.

Combine sour cream and seasoning mix and spread over beans.

Mix avocados, lemon juice and garlic; layer over sour cream mixture.

Sprinkle with cheese. Top with onions, olives and tomato.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Serves 8.

Chicken and Rice

1 1/2 cups rice, uncooked

1 26-ounce can creamed soup (celery, chicken or mushroom) or substitute one 10-ounce can of each

1 soup can milk

5 pounds chicken, cut up

1 envelope dry onion soup mix

In large oven-proof casserole or baking dish, mix soup and can of milk until well blended. Add rice and mix.

Layer chicken on top of rice/soup mixture. Sprinkle entire envelope of dry onion soup mix over chicken.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until chicken and rice are cooked.

Remove chicken to serving platter. Stir rice/soup mixture and place in serving bowl. Rice/soup mixture may also be placed on platter, and chicken placed on top for an attractive serving.

Frankfurter and Potato Chowder

2 cups diced potatoes

1 small onion, chopped or 1 1/2 teaspoons instant minced onion

1 1/2 cups hot water

4 frankfurters

2 cups milk

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

Combine potatoes, onion and water in a heavy saucepan. Boil until vegetables are soft. Mush slightly if desired.

Cut frankfurters into 1/4-inch slices. Add frankfurters, milk and seasonings to potato mixture. Heat thoroughly.

(“I sometimes use Aunt Jane’s Crazy Mixed Up Salt as the seasonings for variety,” Loerts said. “This is my grandson’s favorite, and was originally found in a 4-H food and nutrition book.”)

Snickers Salad

1 16-ounce carton whipped topping

1 3-ounce package instant vanilla pudding

4 red delicious apples, chopped

4 golden delicious apples, chopped

4 Snickers candy bars (regular size) or 12 “fun-size” candy bars, chopped

Mix whipped topping and instant pudding powder.

Chop apples and add to mixture.

Chop candy bars and add to mixture.

Mix thoroughly and refrigerate.

NOTE: For peanut allergies, this also works well with Milky Way candy bars.

Jell-O Cottage Cheese Salad

2 3-ounce boxes lime Jell-O (strawberry works well, too)

1 12-ounce carton whipped topping

1 15- to 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained

1 24-ounce carton small curd cottage cheese

Place Jell-O powder in bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well and refrigerate.

Sugar Cookies

1 cup powdered sugar

1 cup margarine

2 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup oil

Cream above ingredients and add:

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

4 cups plus 4 tablespoons of flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Roll into small balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten with a glass.

Sprinkle with colored sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for eight minutes.

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