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Passing on food knowledge

By Staff | Apr 18, 2014

MARILYN LEERAR, of Crystal Lake, relaxes over dessert and coffee. Being one of the oldest of seven children, she said she did “a lot of cooking” when growing up.

CRYSTAL LAKE – Forty-two years ago, Marilyn and Roger Leerar, switched their careers and moved to Crystal Lake in Hancock County to begin farming.

She was an Iowa State University Extension home economist for Chickasaw and Bremer counties.

He was teaching vocational agriculture at South Winneshiek School and at Northeast Iowa Community College at Calmar.

While he started farming, she became a home economics teacher in the neighboring Thompson school district.

Marilyn Leerar later taught in Woden-Crystal Lake School, followed by the North Iowa School District, in Buffalo Center, where she retired after 29 years of teaching.

Working in smaller school systems, she gained experience as a special education teacher in addition to her duties in the home economics department.

Leerar grew up in on a farm near Gruver, in Emmet County. Her father farmed and hauled livestock, raising beef and hogs while her mother tended the chickens.

She graduated from Lincoln Central High School and college at Mankato State University in Mankato, Minn.

Leerar said she and her brother were the oldest of seven children with a six-year gap between them and the other five.

“I did a lot of cooking,” she said.

Leerar still performs some substitute home economics teaching as needed

Leerar also works every Friday evening and Saturday morning at Bill’s Family Foods in Garner where she is the “sample lady,” featuring whatever the store is featuring that weekend.

She said many of the customers are elderly people who live alone.

Using her home ec background she can assist them in how to use the food to make small servings and tell them about health issues such as salt content.

The livestock on the Leerar farm consists of a cow-calf operation with 22 cows ready to start calving anytime and 40 Rhode Island Red chickens on hand for meat and the brown eggs they produce selling to neighbors in the Woden, Crystal Lake and Britt area.

“I can’t keep up with demand,” said Marilyn Leerar.

A garden is part of the Leerar farm, but is getting smaller as the children are grown, and she and her husband’s appetites are not as big either.

Leerar said in her 2014 garden will be tomatoes, squash, spinach, green beans, potatoes, carrots and asparagus.

Some will be canned, but most will be eaten fresh from the garden.

Since moving to the home farm, Leerar has been a judge for county fairs surrounding Hancock County for 42 years.

At the Hancock County Fair, she coordinates the textile show.

Roger and Marilyn Leerar are parents to three children and seven grandchildren.

Their son, Jeff, farms near Hanlontown in Worth County.

Their daughter, Rebecca, is a food scientist, working out of her home in Remsen.

Son Joe works at Golden Grain Energy LLC., an ethanol plant in Mason City.

Double peanut

crunch cookies

1 cup shortening

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup Spanish peanuts

1 cup peanut butter

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

6-ounce package chocolate chips

Cream shortening, sugar, brown sugar; add vanilla and eggs

Beat until light and fluffy; blend in peanut butter and dry ingredients.

Blend well.

Stir in peanuts and chocolate chips.

Drop by the teaspoon.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Rhubarb dessert


6 cups rhubarb, cut fine

1 cup water

1 1/2 cups sugar

4 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 3-ounce package raspberry Jell-O


1 1/4 cups flour

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 stick margarine

Make filling by boiling rhubarb in water until soft.

Add sugar and cornstarch. Boil until thick; add Jell-O. Chill.

Mix crust ingredients and pat into a 9-by-13-inch pan

Bake 10 minutes until brown.



2 cups milk

2 cup whipped topping

2 3-ounce packages vanilla instant pudding

2 cups mini marshmallows

Beat pudding and milk together well.

Add whipped topping and marshmallows.

Easy sugar cookies

1 cup margarine

4 1/2 to 5 cups flour (no more)

1 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon soda

1 cup powder sugar

1 teaspoon soda

1 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla or almond flavor

Mix ingredients together. Roll in small balls in palm of hand.

Press down lightly with bottom of sugared glass.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes

Almond bars


1 cup butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 cups flour

A handful of slivered almonds

Mix powdered sugar and flour.

Cut in butter as for a pie crust.

Place in a 9-by-13-pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.


Beat 8 ounces of softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract, 2 eggs.

Place on baked crust while still warm. Bake for 15 minutes or just browned.


Mix 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1 1/2 teaspoon milk or more, 1 teaspoon almond extract.

Spread over the top of cooled baked bar.

Sprinkle sliced almonds on top. Store in refrigerator.

Broccoli salad

8 ounces spiral noodles, cooked

1 cup mayonnaise

1 head broccoli cut up finely

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 red onion

1/2 can sweetened condensed milk

1 pound pepperoni or cooked bacon

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Mix noodles, chopped broccoli, onion, meat and Cheddar cheese.

Combine mayonnaise, sugar, sweetened condensed milk, Parmesan cheese and vinegar.

Mixed well. Pour over noodles mixture;toss together. Refrigerate for several hours.

Poor man’s prime rib

3 to 5 pounds of arm, chuck, 7-bone or other less-tender roast or steak

1 teaspoon low-salt meat tenderizer


1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup soy sauce, low-salt

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Sprinkle both sides of meat with tenderizer. Pierce meat with tines of a fork all over on both sides.

Allow tenderizer to work 1/2 hour to 1 hour, depending on thickness of cut.

Combine marinade ingredients and pour over roast; let stand in a plastic container 4 to 5 hours, or overnight, depending on meat thickness.

On gas grill, table-top griIl or broiler, sear on hot flames 10 minutes on each side.

Lower heat and cook 15 to 20 minutes on each side.

Continue over lower heat to desired doneness.

Do not use marinade during grilling or serving of meat, unless brought to a boil in a separate container.

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