homepage logo

Early kitchen solo attempts were shaky

By Staff | Jun 14, 2013

VAL COOK is preparing to pour her praline ice cream topping in a bowl of ice cream.



HUBBARD – Val Cook’s first steps of cooking on her own got off to a shaky start.

As the oldest child and having four brothers on a farm near Ackley, she said helping with cooking was expected of her.

She had watched her grandmother bake bread and Cook, then 13, tried it on her own.

BESIDES BREAD, Val Cook enjoys baking muffins such as these apple crunch muffins, a family favorite.

She had a list of ingredients, but no instructions. She said her bread turned out hard as a rock and did not rise.

Her dad had toasted a slice of it and ate it, saying nothing. Her mother threw it out.

Cook’s mother rewrote the recipe including instructions to use warm, not cold, water and to let the yeast dissolve.

It was her grandmother who was the bread maker and Cook’s inspiration.

Cook said when she was a senior in high school the 4-H program had only one winner in each of its categories and that year she was the state bread award winner.

Today, her favorite bread to bake is honey whole wheat.

In the summer, a favorite bread is a pear cinnamon yeast bread.

Muffins and rhubarb, peach, cherry, and Dutch apple pies are other favorites and said she does quite a bit of canning.

While she was the only daughter, “Dad still had me walk beans,” said Cook.

Cook met her husband, Jeff Cook, while they were in 4-H, and they’ve been married 31 years.

They are parents of four children.

Rita is an Iowa State University graduate, living in West Des Moines where she works for the Coalition to Support Iowa Farmers.

Becky is a sophomore at University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls in elementary education.

Kyle graduated from high school and is enrolled at Hawkeye Tech in ag business.

Vince is finishing his freshman year in high school in the South Hardin School District.

Jeff and Val Cook remain active in the 4-H program. He is a leader for the Tipton-Grant Toppers 4-H Club, and she is on her fourth term on the Hardin County Extension Council.

Val Cook also works as a registered nurse at the Hubbard Care Center.

Rhubarb crush

6 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into small pieces

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 12-ounce can frozen pink lemonade

6 cup water

Lemon-lime soda pop

In Dutch oven or large kettle, combine rhubarb, sugar, water and lemonade. Bring to a boil.

Cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 10 minutes or until rhubarb is very tender.

Strain and remove pulp. Press pulp to remove all juice. (Cook said she uses a food mill.)

Chill the syrup. Serve by combining equal part syrup and pop.

Cook said she usually freezes half of the pulp to use later in the summer.

This is tangy and refreshing, Cook said.


3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoons oregano

1/2 teaspoon basil

2 cups bread cut into 1/2-inch squares

Stir seasoning into melted butter. Add bread cubes and stir to coat.

Microwave on high for 3 to 5 minutes; stirring once halfway through. Microwave until lightly brown and sizzling.

Let stand until crisp and cool. Store in airtight container.

Add to lettuce salads. “I use the heels of bread to make croutons,” Cook said. It “works with either white or wheat bread.”

Praline ice cream topping

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1 /4 cup brown sugar

Dash of salt

2 tablespoons white corn syrup

16 large marshmallows

1 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla

In large saucepan melt butter or margarine. Add brown sugar, salt, syrup,and marshmallows.

Stir over low heat until the marshmallows are melted and it comes to a boil.

Boil 1 minute. Set aside for 5 minutes. Add the milk, pecans, and vanilla.

Mix well and it is ready to serve.

Can serve warm or cold. It will be thicker when served cold.

Makes 2 cups.

Apple crunch muffins

1/4 cup margarine or butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

1 egg, beaten

1 cup raw apple, peeled and chopped fine

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Cream together butter and sugar. Add milk and egg and stir together.

Combine dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture.

Add apple last; stir to combine. Put into 12 greased muffin cups.


1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)

Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle on top of muffins.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

“I often make these muffins for Sunday morning breakfasts,” Val Cook said.

Potato sausage casserole

1 pound pork sausage

1 can cream of mushroom soup

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup chopped onion

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 cups raw sliced potatoes

1/2 cup cheddar cheese

Brown and drain sausage. Mix together soup, milk, onion and pepper.

In large casserole dish layer potatoes, soup mixture and sausage.

Repeat layers again ending with sausage. Dot with butter. (“I usually stir it all together and then dot with butter,” Cook said.)

Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheddar cheese.

Return to oven for a couple of minutes to melt cheese.

Pot roast

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 beef chuck roast, 3 to 4 pounds

1 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup water

Onion, chopped (to taste)

1/4 cup chopped green pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons parsley

1/4 teaspoon thyme

Combine first four ingredients and rub onto roast.

In skillet, brown roast in oil on all sides. Place roast in roasting pan.

Add water, onion, green pepper and seasonings. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 2 hours.

Can add potatoes and carrots when one hour left to bake.

Remove bay leaves before serving.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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