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There’s nothing fancy in her kitchen

By Staff | Feb 21, 2014

SONYA WERNIMONT enjoys recipes that can go into a slow-cooker, since she often finds herself short on time to cook healthy, hearty meals for her family. Here, she stirs a pot full of five-bean casserole — also known as calico beans.

SPIRIT LAKE – Sonya Wernimont said there’s nothing fancy about the cooking that happens in her kitchen.

“When I’m driving home from work,” she said, “I’m thinking about what I’m going to make for supper-the simpler, the better.”

Wernimont said she thinks about simple meals because sometimes, the supper plan changes if her husband needs her to help outside when she gets home.

“On those nights we sometimes don’t eat supper until 9 o’clock,” she said. “It’s hard to plan a meal when the plan changes like that.”

Wernimont grew up on a grain and livestock farm near Spencer, but she said most of what she learned was from watching her mother and sister cook.

WERNIMONT SAID SHE enjoys the way the house smells when she makes banana bread. Here, she shows the bread’s density and rich color.

She said she didn’t cook much until she moved out of her parents’ house, learning a few hard lessons along the way.

These include:

A). “Never leave the kitchen when you have something on the stove,” she said.

B). “When you’re melting chocolate on the stove, always stir it so it doesn’t scorch the bottom of your pan.”

C). “Always follow the directions, and I always measure the ingredients-I never guess how much of something I’m putting in.”

CHEESECAKE BROWNIES won Sonya Wernimont’s seal of approval since they were easy to make and easy to take along when one is busy.

Wernimont’s busy schedule is underscored by two teenage children who are involved in school activities, 4-H and their church.

That’s why casseroles are what she turns to when she needs something versatile that will feed a hungry family with not much time to spare.

“They’re the easiest,” she said. “I like to use casserole recipes that have ingredients you can find at the local grocery store. I make goulash casserole a lot-it’s pretty quick.”

The Wernimonts grow corn, soybeans and some alfalfa, and they also have a sheep flock.

It’s the sheep, she said, that can really demand a lot of her time-especially when lambing season begins in February.

“I might find out when I get home that I need to clean the lambing barn or vaccinate sheep or (band) their tails,” Wernimont said. “I might be matching the ewe to the lamb she had and recording that on a paper somewhere, along with the lamb’s gender.

“It’s really time-consuming.”

In spring, she finds herself going wherever she is needed-getting more seed corn or beans, shuttling people from field to field, taking meals out to them, running for parts.

She said when she finds herself helping with the farm in the evenings, she relies on her slow-cooker for meals; or prepares quick meals like loose meat sandwiches and tacos.

She said her options are open as far as the root of the meal.

“We all like beef, pork and chicken,” she said.

Wernimont said if she found herself with a lot of free time to cook or bake, she would like to bake desserts.

“I’m not too creative with main dishes,” she said, “but I can usually make desserts without failing.”

She especially enjoys making her family’s favorite dessert and snack staples, including brownies, scotcheroos and chocolate chip cookies.

“I like to bake those things because you can just grab them and go,” she said.

She said she enjoys decorating their home, shopping when she has time or watching the Hallmark channel.

Living on a farm all of her life, Wernimont admitted it can be hectic, but she still wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I like it out here because of the peace and quiet and the space we have,” she said, adding she likes their location, being close to Spirit Lake, Estherville and Jackson, Minn.

“This is no 8-to-5 job. There’s always something to do, whether it’s baling, picking up rocks, fixing fences, mowing or pushing snow.”

Cheesecake brownies

1 20.5-ounce package brownie mix (not one with a syrup pouch)

8 ounces cream cheese

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Prepare brownie mix as directed; spread in greased 13-by-9-inch baking pan.

Beat cream cheese with electric mixer until smooth.

Add sugar, egg and vanilla and mix only until blended. Do not over mix.

Pour over brownie mixture. Cut through several times with knife for marbling effect.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until cream cheese mixture is lightly browned.

Cool and cut into squares.

Banana bread

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

4 ripe bananas

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream shortening and sugar. Beat in eggs and bananas.

Sift dry ingredients and stir into mixture.

Add vanilla and mix well.

Bake in greased loaf pan at 350 degrees until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

. Meatloaf

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

2 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup milk

2/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs or 2 cups soft bread crumbs (about 2 1/2 slices of bread)

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons snipped, fresh parsley

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried leaf sage, basil or oregano, crushed

1/4 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon dry mustard

In small bowl, combine eggs and milk. Stir in bread crumbs, onion, parsley, salt, sage and pepper.

Add ground meat, mix well.

Lightly pat mixture into 8-by-8-inch pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Spoon off fat.

Combine ketchup, brown sugar and mustard in small bowl. Spread over meat.

Bake 10 minutes more. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting into slices.

Makes 8 servings.

Loose meat sandwiches

3 pounds hamburger

1 teaspoon mustard

3/4 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon onion flakes

Brown hamburger and drain. Add remaining ingredients, along with 1/2 cup water.

Simmer for 30 minutes to one hour. (The longer the better.)

Note: A slow cooker works well for this recipe.


1 pound hamburger

1 medium onion

1 15-ounce can chili beans

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

1 32-ounce can tomato juice

Chili seasoning (optional)

Brown hamburger and onion

Add beans, sauce and juice-and chili seasoning if desired.

Simmer one hour and serve. A slow cooker works well for this recipe.

Note: Wernimont said her family likes this recipe because it’s not spicy and doesn’t have a lot of beans.

They like to add shredded cheese, salsa and/or sour cream for extra flavor.

Enchilada chicken soup

1 11-ounce can condensed cheese soup, undiluted (It can be nacho or cheddar.)

1 10-ounce can condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted

2 2/3 cup milk

1 10-ounce can enchilada sauce

1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies

In large saucepan, combine all ingredients and mix well.

Cook until heated through.

If desired, garnish with sour cream and serve with tortilla chips.

Yields 7 servings.

Five-bean casserole

1 can pork and beans

1 can chili beans

1 can yellow beans

2 cans green beans

1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup ketchup

1/2 cup brown sugar

Mustard to taste

Mix beans and cook until warm.

Brown ground beef and drain. Mix meat with beans and cook until warm.

Season with the ketchup and brown sugar, with mustard to taste.

Note: Wernimont said she likes to put this in a slow cooker and summer all day on low, adding that the longer it simmers the better it tastes. She said it still tastes great the next day.

Chocolate scotcheroos

1 cup sugar

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup light corn syrup

6 cups crispy rice cereal

1 11-ounce bag milk chocolate chips

1 11-ounce bag butterscotch chips

Mix together sugar, peanut butter and syrup.

Cook over medium heat until it begins to bubble, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Remove from heat and quickly mix in cereal.

Pat into lightly greased 9-by-13-inch pan.

Mix chips in small saucepan over medium heat.

Stir occasionally. When melted spread over bars.

Cool completely and cut into squares.

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