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From farm to fork

By Staff | Mar 27, 2015

-Farm News photos by Darcy Dougherty Maulsby DWIGHT DIAL’S late wife, Jane, developed the recipe for these savory Cheddar Biscuits, which were inspired by biscuits they encountered at a chain restaurant.


LAKE CITY – While cancer can take away a person’s physical abilities, it can’t destroy love or conquer the spirit.

Along the way, however, it demands the courage to let go of the familiar. It’s a journey Dwight Dial understands well.

“I began cooking our meals for the last three years before Jane died,” said Dial, whose wife, Jane, died in December 2013 after battling ovarian cancer.

“One of the only good things about cancer is that it gives you time to prepare and learn new skills you’ll need.”

DWIGHT DIAL’S hearty lamb vegetable chowder features a variety of home-grown ingredients, from the lamb to the carrots.

While Dial had often fixed breakfast for their sons, Ethan and Andy, while the boys were growing up, he spent most of his time running the family’s grain and livestock farm, east of Lake City.

When he became the chief cook a few years ago, he’s grateful he had a tremendous resource to rely on.

“A number of years ago we typed up many of our favorite family recipes and compiled them in a three-ring binder,” said Dial, who turns often to these recipes at mealtime. “I’m so glad we made this cookbook when we did.”

Dial uses many of his own home-grown ingredients to prepare a number of these recipes, including the lamb in his lamb vegetable chowder.

“This year marks my 50th lamb crop,” said Dial, who manages a 75-ewe flock and a nursery-finish swine operation. “I have my lamb processed at the locker in Yetter and like how the meat gives the soup a rich flavor.”

-Farm News photo by Darcy Dougherty Maulsby DWIGHT DIAL frosts a Texas sheet cake, a popular family recipe that the Dials served at both of their boys’ high school graduation parties.

Dial, an avid gardener, uses his own carrots and other vegetables in his dishes, while his raspberries, strawberries, apples, cherries and other fruits provide plenty of fresh flavors for salads and desserts.

Maximizing the productivity of his crops, whether they are grown in the backyard garden or his no-till corn and soybean fields, is important to Dial, who has received the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Environmental Leader Award.

This honor recognizes the voluntary efforts of Iowa farmers who are committed to healthy soils and improved water quality.

Quality is important to Dial, whether he is farming or cooking classic recipes like Texas sheet cake.

“One time someone in our family made the comment that ‘everybody likes Texas sheet cake,’ and it stuck,” said Dial, who noted that he and Jane served the cake at both of their sons’ high school graduation receptions.

“It’s good to have recipes like this that keep you connected to your family,” he said.

Lamb vegetable chowder

1 pound ground lamb, beef or pork

2 cups canned tomatoes

2 medium carrots, sliced

1/2 cup celery, diced

1 medium onion, chopped

1/4 cup barley or rice

2 teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 1/ 2 quarts water

Brown meat. Combine all ingredients in large kettle and simmer slowly, about 1 hour.

Serves to 6-8.

Jane’s biscuits

2 cups flour, sifted

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 cup shortening, butter or margarine

3/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes

2/3 cup milk

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cream of tartar and sugar.

Cut in shortening with a fork or pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add cheese, garlic salt and parsley flakes.

Add milk all at once. Stir only until dough follows fork around the bowl.

Drop each biscuit by a scoop onto a baking sheet. Brush each biscuit with melted butter, and sprinkle with garlic salt.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 425 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

When done, brush biscuits with additional margarine.

Makes 16 medium biscuits.

Stuffed pork chops

4 America’s Cut pork chops

2 cups plain croutons

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine

1 small onion, chopped

1 cup cooked pork sausage

Sage, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper

2 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon rosemary

1 teaspoon paprika

Extra parsley

Blend croutons, water, margarine, onion, pork sausage and a pinch each of sage, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper.

Slit a pocket in each pork chop and stuff with sausage mixture. Put any extra stuffing in the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish, and place chops on top. Baste chops with the last 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Sprinkle rosemary, paprika and parsley over the chops and stuffing in the dish.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees until done (about 45 minutes). Do not overbake.

Texas sheet cake

1 cup water

2 sticks margarine

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 cups flour

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs

1 1/2 pints sour cream


4 1/2 tablespoons milk

6 tablespoons margarine

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 pound powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chopped nuts, if desired

Boil water, margarine and cocoa powder together for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a bowl mix and sift together flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Pour into margarine mixture.

Combine this with eggs and sour cream.

Beat well. Pour batter into greased jelly roll sheet pan.

Bake for 20 minutes at 325 degrees.

For the frosting combine milk, margarine and cocoa powder.

Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add 1 pound powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and chopped nuts, if desired.

Spread frosting over sheet cake.

Grandma Dial’s breakfast casserole

1 pound sausage, sausage links or ham

8 eggs

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon powdered mustard

8 slices bread, cubed

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Brown and crumble sausage, drain fat. In large bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt, pepper and mustard.

Stir in bread cubes, cheese and sausage or ham.

Pour mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Set out for 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Knife should come clean when inserted into the casserole.

Fresh strawberry cake

2 1/4 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup fresh strawberries


1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup strawberries

1 pound powdered sugar


Sift the flour with the salt and baking powder. Combine butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a bowl.

Beat with an electric mixer for 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl once or twice.

Add the flour mixture alternately with the strawberries.

Blend into the creamed mixture and beat for 2 more minutes.

Pour batter into two, 8-inch round layer pans that have been buttered, lined with waxed paper and buttered again.

Tap pans on counter to release air from the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool cakes in pans for 5 minutes before turning onto racks.

Remove waxed paper carefully while layers are still warm. When cakes are cool, frost.

To make the frosting, beat together butter, strawberries, and powdered sugar.

Add milk to get the desired consistency.

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