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A passion for cooking, baking

By Staff | Nov 8, 2013

Alice Den Hartog in her rural Sheldon kitchen, which was recently remodelled by her three children. She said the kitchen is the heart of her house, because that’s where the family spends most of its time



SHELDON – Willard and Alice Den Hartog moved to their farm in 1950, and her grandchildren say this is where she began to perfect her delicious chocolate cake.

The family the Den Hartogs raised fuels Alice Den Hartog’s passion for cooking, baking and having large gatherings.

With three children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren there is always someone around to feed, she said.

DEN HARTOG’S recipe for these bars, called Jan Hagel bars, starts on page 3B.

In their early farming years, there were a lot of large groups to feed.

Shelling corn is a good example.

“You would have six or more of your neighbors there for one or two meals a day and coffee times,” said Den Hartog.

Roast beef was the most common menu item during these times, she said, “and of course potatoes and gravy and a desert of some sort, most likely pie.”

Den Hartog said she enjoys cooking for large groups.

As time went by the Den Hartogs and three children were involved in farm life, working with the 320 acres of crops to the cattle, hogs and sheep.

Willard Den Hartog’s brother lived a couple miles away and was a big part in harvest every year, so that meant there was always a meal to be made, Alice Den Hartog said.

Currently, her son and his family live less then a mile away and they share many Sunday meals together.

Six years ago, Den Hartog’s children decided it would be great to remodel the heart of her home.

“The kitchen is the most important room,” she said, ‘since that is where everyone gathers.”

With most of the work coming from her children and a completely different design of the kitchen, Den Hartog said she enjoyed watching the change.

“Really the only thing done by someone other than the family were the cabinets, which were made by a local craftsman,” she said.

All the extra room has made large family gatherings commonplace at her home. Whether a birthday or a holiday, there have been as many as 15 to 20 people around the table for these special occasions, she said.

When not cooking for family, she finds joy in her church. Strong faith has kept her active in the church, she said, including circle, committees and Sunday school.

She said 50 years of teaching Sunday school to a variety of grades, plus countless projects and crafts, has, has been one of her most rewarding church activities.

“The children are so much fun and it is very worthwhile to do it,” Den Hartog said.

Going to Saturday breakfast with friends is a staple of her routine.

Den Hartog said she enjoys tending to her garden growing tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.

She also has a love for the beautiful annual flowers she has right outside of the house.

“The kids did some new landscaping around the house, and I just love to plant and take care of the flowers that are there,” she said.

Chocolate cake

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup shortening

4 egg yolks

1 cup sour milk

1 cup boiling water

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon vinegar

2 1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup cocoa

1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream sugar, shortening and then add egg yolks.

Put soda and vinegar in the sour milk, then add all dry ingredient, sifting together alternately with the sour milk mixture.

Last add the boiling water which has been mixed with the cocoa and vanilla.

Place in a greased 9-by-13-inch pan in a 350-degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes.

Finally, frost with your favorite icing.

Strawberry salad

2 packages strawberry Jell-o

2 cups boiling water

1 large package frozen strawberries

1 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple, in heavy syrup

2 large bananas

Dissolve the Jell-o in boiling water.

Add partially thawed strawberries with juice, undrained pineapple and bananas, which have been mashed and whipped.

Pour in a large bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Jan Hagel bars

1 cup butter (no substitutions)

1 cup sugar

1 egg yolk

1 egg white

2 cups flour

A pinch of soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 to 1 cup of nutmeats

Cream butter and sugar, add unbeaten egg yolk, flour, soda and salt sifted together.

Spread over a large, greased 11-by-15-inch bar pan.

Beat egg white slightly and brush over the top. Mix nutmeats and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top.

Use the palm of your hand to press an work the bars down in the pan a bit.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Do not over bake, then cut while warm into their desired shape.

Beef chuck roast

Place a small amount of oil in the bottom of a roast pan.

Salt, pepper and season chuck roast and then place in the roasting pan.

Put slices of onion on the top of the roast.

On top of onions place four slices of bacon.

Bake in 275-degree oven for about four or more hours.

Note: This will produce a moist and tasty roast.

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