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Filling her bucket

By Staff | Jun 13, 2014

LISA HUFF prepares vegetables in her rural Ashton kitchen.

ASHTON -From small to large, Lisa Huff and her family have experienced a bit of everything.

It began innocently and basically just as an outlet for Huff’s artistic interests.

She said she already had hobbies – knitting, crocheting and sewing – but, for her it wasn’t enough.

“I needed to fill my bucket,” said Huff.

With a full-time job, Huff said she felt as if people were taking from her proverbial bucket, but she had no way to fill it.

AN EXAMPLE of cake decorating that Lisa Huff has been doing since 1988.

That’s when the idea of cake decorating came to mind, something she really wanted to try.

She dove right in.

That was 1988 that she began to put her baking skills to use, making her first graduation cakes, just two short years after her own high school graduation.

The business has only grown since, she said, to include catering.

Now Huff makes cakes for all occasions – birthdays, babies, weddings and showers – and has branched out to catering all sizes of events.

“Nobody told me I couldn’t,” Huff said, “so why not give it a try?”

The catering has run the gamut from small, intimate groups to wedding dinners for hundreds.

“We really wondered what we had gotten ourselves into, but it was rewarding, and we survived,” Huff said.

Family members help when they can, from her three children, ranging in ages from 17 to 22, and her husband.

Although, Huff said, the children were more help when they were at home than now living on their own.

Sunday breakfasts were always a big deal, she said, as her family grew and matured, becoming more elaborate as the children got older.

“Everyone wanted to help and had their ideas for what we should make” Huff said.

Describing her kitchen as not the largest, a remodeling project four years ago made it more functional since, she said, “All my breads, deserts and cakes are made from scratch, so I know exactly what goes into them.”

Her kitchen prowess has passed down to her two sons.

Both have cooked in restaurants, Huff said, and enjoy preparing and cooking their own whole foods.

“They also have a desire to branch out and try other foods, including different ethnic-based food,” said Huff.

She said her husband and daughter like to cook and pitch in whenever needed.

Due to activities, jobs and everyone on separate schedules, she said, dinners end up happening by chance, rather than planned events.

“I love the peace and quiet of the nearby creek,” Huff said, “and the sound is so relaxing for me.”

This, she said, helps her prepare and enjoy the baked goods she creates for other people, jumping in to about anything, from cookies and cupcakes for almost any occasion.

This includes baking for various fundraising events, which she said are fulfilling and rewarding for herself and her family.

Grandma Tena’s

master cookies

1 cup margarine

1 cup oil

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 1/2 to 4 cups all purpose flour

Blend margarine, oil and sugars.

Blend in egg and vanilla.

Combine dry ingredients and stir into creamed mixture. Do not over mix.

Stir in 2 cups of mix-ins or divide dough into smaller bowls and add mix-ins to make a variety of different cookies.

(Note: Grandma would often make chocolate chip, crisp rice with coconut & butterscotch chip cookies. In this case three varieties of cookies from one dough. This is a white cookie and should not brown at all on the sides or top of the cookie. The cream of tartar keeps the crisp exterior, while maintaining the chewy interior of the cookie.)

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment-lined, light-colored baking sheets.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes at 350.

Layered cornbread salad

1 recipe for 9-by-13-inch cornbread (or use boxed mixes)

1 small can chopped green chiles

Dash of sage

1 package ranch dressing mix

1 8-ounce container sour cream

1 cup mayonnaise

2 cans cut corn or frozen corn, thawed

3 Roma tomatoes, diced

10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

2 cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 8-ounce package shredded Cheddar cheese

4 green onions, sliced

Prepare cornbread mix according to package or home-recipe directions, adding green chiles and sage.

Bake and cool completely.

Combine ranch dressing mix, sour cream and mayo. Set aside.

Crumble half of cornbread into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Top with 1/2 of the beans, 1/2 of the sour cream mixture, 1/2 of the green bell pepper, 1/2 of the corn, 1/2 of the tomatoes, 1/2 of the bacon, 1/2 of the cheese and 1/2 of the green onions.

Repeat layers.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. This will fill the baking dish to near overflowing so will feed a lot.

It can be a meatless meal by omitting the bacon.

Chicken with olives

and pasta

1pound pasta

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

2 cups tomatoes, fresh or canned including the juice, chopped

10 to 12 green olives with pimento, sliced

1/2 cup white wine

2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 green onions, sliced

Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup parsley, minced

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat.

Saute the chicken breasts until cooked through. Set aside to cool.

When the chicken has cooled cut into bite-sized pieces.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

In the same skillet in which the chicken was cooked, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat.

Add garlic and pepper flakes. Saute for a few minutes.

Add the wine. Deglaze the pan and bring to a simmer.

Add tomatoes and continue at a simmer stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and well blended, about 8 minutes.

Cook pasta while tomatoes simmer.

Stir in cubed chicken and olives; heat through.

When the pasta is about 1 minute shy of al dente, remove and drain, but set aside 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Add pasta to the sauce. Gently toss and add black pepper and minced parsley.

Simmer for a minute or so adding some of the reserved pasta water if needed to thin the sauce a little.

Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese, sliced olives and chopped green onion stems.

Chocolate pecan waffles with raspberries

1 1./2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon soda

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup melted butter

2 ounces melted unsweetened chocolate

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup pecan pieces

Combine dry ingredients; set aside.

Beat eggs and sugar until foamy.

Beat in milk, butter and vanilla. Blend well and stir in chocolate.

(Note: “Many times I substitute additional melted butter,” Huff said, “vanilla and cocoa according to substitution recommendation on package for the melted chocolate.)

Blend in dry ingredients; fold in pecans.

Bake on hot, greased waffle iron until done.

Garnish with thawed frozen raspberries and fresh whipped cream.

“We prefer thawed raspberries,” Huff said, “straight from the bag as we don’t like them overly sweet. The waffles and whipped cream are sweet enough for us.”

Crunch apple

and grape salad

Fruit dressing:

1 cup Honey Vanilla Greek Yogurt

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 stalk celery, diced

1/2 cup sour cream

Juice from 1/2 lemon

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Fruit and nuts:

4 apples (your choice), cored and diced

1 pear, cored and diced

2 cups seedless grapes, halved

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1/2 cup slivered almonds

Combine dressing ingredients and refrigerate.

Prepare fruit and nuts in a large bowl. Pour dressing over fruit and stir gently to combine. Serve immediately.

(Note: This is such a changeable recipe, Huff said, any type of apples, grapes and nuts can be used. “If I’m out of almonds, I’ll use all walnuts. Often we omit the pears and substitute additional apples. If I’m taking this to a pot luck, I do not add the nuts until just before serving – it keeps them from becoming soft. Also, this is a great salad to keep in the refrigerator for snacking and garnish with nuts just before eating.”)

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