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Kitchen lessons have endured

By Staff | Jul 10, 2015

-Farm News Photos by Karen Schwaller LYNNE JOHNSON said she uses only dark brown sugar when she makes chocolate chip cookies. She thinks it adds more flavor than light brown sugar offers. Here, she removes some of her creations from the baking sheet.


MILFORD – Lynne Johnson grew up helping her father outside on his hog farm near Boone.

But some of that came to a halt when she turned 13.

“It was a sad, sad day when my mother told my father I needed to be in the house a little more so I could learn to cook,” she said, adding that her mother was taught to cook by her own mother-in-law. “Mom wanted to be sure to teach us three girls.”

Johnson said her mother learned to make chicken that she said is “unsurpassed” by anyone’s chicken she has ever tasted.

BANANA BREAD, banana muffins and chocolate chip cookies have been a popular staple with the Johnson family over the years.

“She made a lot of fried chicken, pies of all flavors, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet corn-the dishes never ended,” Johnson said with a laugh.

Growing up, she said “meat, potatoes and vegetables” were standard fare for every meal. She said she cooked much the same way for her own family when the children came along. She said she has always enjoyed baking the most and that her sister taught her how to make pie crust.

“I always thought of cooking as something I had to do,” Johnson said. “But I do like to bake, and I had to learn that it’s OK if the (pie) crust isn’t perfect.”

Johnson and her husband, Jack-a farmer and local veterinarian-reared four boys.

“With four boys I cooked a lot of food,” she said, adding that the family has eaten a lot of beef over the years, since they raise registered Hereford cattle.

Lynne Johnson mug

Something she has learned over the years is that faster is not always better.

“I have cooked on gas stoves most of my life, and I’ve learned that by cooking at a lower heat for a longer period of time, you lose less food quality,” she said. “I do a lot of slow cooking in an electric skillet, rather than using a crockpot.”

Johnson said she has a much-loved recipe for low-fat chocolate chip cookies that she bakes often for her family. She and her mother found a traditional recipe they liked, then cut out half of the fat and one-third of the sugar.

“My mom was always looking for foods that were low-fat,” she said. “With this recipe you have to add a little water to get the consistency you want, but you don’t have to feel so guilty eating one or two of them.”

Johnson said she “does it all” on the farm, from calving to cattle chores to spring tillage, to picking corn in the fall. Yes, picking corn.

“We grind our own feed-we’re still back in the 1950s,” she said as she laughed. “We pick about 16 loads-just enough to fill one side of the corn crib-it’s just short of 2,000 bushels.”

Johnson has a degree from Iowa State University in zoology. She said it has helped her work well with her veterinarian husband. They have lived near Milford for 38 years, and she said life on the farm is where she truly wants to be.

“What’s not to like?” she said. “I love it here-the privacy, the fresh air, the animals. I love calving season especially.”

Johnson said her family shows Hereford cattle at the Clay County Fair each year-something the (extended) Johnson family has done since 1930.

Banana bread

1-3/4 cups flour

3/4 teaspoons soda

1-1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup butter

2/3 cup sugar

2 eggs, well-beaten

1 cup mashed bananas

Sift flour with soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Cream butter; add sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well. Add flour alternately with bananas, beating after each addition until smooth. Pour into a buttered loaf pan and bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) for 45-60 minutes. (NOTE: Johnson said to lower fat and sugar, add only 1/4 cup butter and reduce sugar content by 2/3.)

Lowfat chocolate

chip cookies

This recipe is made with a third less sugar and half the fat. This is the recipe when doubled.

5 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cupreal butter

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

4 eggs

4 tablespoons hot water

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 12-oz. pkg. chocolate chips

1 cup chopped nuts if desired

Cream butter, add all sugars, and cream thoroughly. Add eggs and beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Add hot water and vanilla, then add sifted flour mixture (with salt and soda). If mixture is too stiff, add more water (up to another 1/4 cup) and then add chocolate chips and nuts. Bake about 16 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes about 6 dozen.


coffee cake

1 cup shortening

1-1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 cup milk

3 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla


1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup English walnuts

1/2 cup black walnuts

3 teaspoons cinnamon

Mix well.

Spread half of batter in large cake pan. Sprinkle on half of the filling.

Pat down and add remaining batter. Top with remaining filling.

Pour half cup melted butter over the top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

(NOTE: Johnson said to watch the cake carefully for overbaking in the 25-minute time period, as oven temperatures vary.)

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