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It’s all hands-on in her kitchen

By Staff | Apr 24, 2015

Nila Zanker


STANHOPE – Nila Zanker described herself as “a hands-on kind of person.”

Her abilities as a do-it-yourself er is evident outside the home where she and husband Clayton live in Stanhope, landscaped with plants and rocks brought home from the corn-and-soybean farm they operate.

Inside the home, Zanker devotes a part of the basement for starting her garden vegetables from seeds, to eventually end up in the kitchen that was remodeled four years ago to provide counter space where much of the family activities take place.

“I don’t use recipes,” said Nila Zanker, who views a recipe as a starting place and then adjusts it to her own tastes.

NILA ZANKER prepares a serving of Granny’s potato salad.

The Zankers are parents of four adult sons who are more than comfortable cooking in the kitchen.

“All four sons are better cooks than I am,” Zanker said.

The passing of cooking from generation to generation is not new, Zanker said, since she learned cooking from her father and his mother.

Zanker said she plants eight kinds of tomatoes, seven kinds of peppers, plus sweet corn, onions, green and yellow beans, squash, zucchini and herbs.

Her tomatoes and peppers were started from seeds, and they will be planted in her sons’ gardens.

NILA ZANKER’S homemade spaghetti sauce, salsa and potato salad are all made from ingredients from her garden.

The two oldest sons, Garren and Ryan, are both employed by Fareway grocery stores.

The brothers are likely to bring meat to family gatherings with Garren preparing a poached beef and Ryan doing barbecue, while his wife, Josie, provides dessert.

Zanker sons Wes prepares the salad and Greg is the gourmet cook.

When the meal is finished, “There aren’t any leftovers,” said Zanker.

But Zanker’s activities are not limited to doing things around the home.

In the spring, she drives tractor, doing tillage ahead of the planter, and hauls loads in from the field during harvest.

Zanker’s interests also extend to the community. She’s been a member of the emergency medical services crew and fire department for 18 years, city council member for 14 years and served on the police board.

Her parents were Jed and Dorothy Norris who moved to Stanhope after he was discharged from the military when Nila was in the fifth grade.

Her father was a dentist as well as a gourmet cook and artist.

The day that Nila Norris started as a new student in Stanhope, was also the day another new student started – Clayton Zanker.

They were married after dating in high school.

Granny’s potato salad

12 ldaho potatoes

1 cup chopped onion

7 large eggs, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

3 tablespoons cider vinegar, or salad vinegar


2 cups mayonnaise

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 tablespoon milk

1 1/2 teaspoons beau monde seasoning

1/4 teaspoon celery seed

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 shake Accent

Boil unpeeled potatoes until done, don’t overcook. Let cool before peeling.

Boil eggs and let cool.

Peel and chop potatoes into large pieces, sprinkle with vinegar and let set in refrigerator overnight.

Next day chop eggs, onions and celery.

Make dressing by mixing mayonnaise, parsley, milk, beau monde seasoning, celery seed, seasoned salt and Accent.

Add salt, pepper and vinegar to taste.

Pour over potatoes and mix to coat all. Chill.


2 cups hot peppers

2 cups green peppers

4 1/2 cups banana peppers

8 1/2 cups onions

5-8 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons oil

23 cups tomatoes

4 tablespoon chili powder

3 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups white vinegar

Use food processor to slice all peppers, onion and garlic.

Saute in 2 tablespoons of oil.

Chop tomatoes in processor and add to peppers. Add the rest of the spices and vinegar.

Cook at medium high heat for 45 minutes to an hour. Place in pint or quart jars and can, using your favorite canning technique to seal.

Edna’s spaghetti sauce

2 cups onions, chopped

2 cups green pepper chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1/3 cup oil

8 quarts cut up tomatoes

1 12-ounce can tomato paste

4 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon oregano

3 teaspoon salt

Saute onions, green pepper and garlic in oil until tender.

Stir in tomatoes, paste, and spices.

Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Can or freeze.

Poached beef

3 to 4 pound beef roast

1 container au jus dipping sauce

2 onions, sliced

1 cup sliced carrots

1 box sliced mushrooms

1/2 to 1 cup red wine

Salt and pepper

Place everything in a Dutch oven or slow cooker and fill three-fourth full of water.

Cook on high for first half-hour, then on low for 6 to 8 hours.

Make gravy with the sauce if desired.

Corn flakes Christmas wreaths

1/2 cup butter

5 heaping cups mini marshmallows

1 teaspoon green food coloring

6 cups corn flakes

Red hots candy

Measure corn flakes into a large bowl.

Melt butter in a large pan over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until melted. Stir in green food coloring.

Pour over the corn flakes and stir until the corn flakes are coated.

Lay out parchment paper on counter. Dollop mixture on the paper with a spoon.

Grease your hands with butter and shape corn flakes into wreaths. Decorate with 3 red hots.

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