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Food is her thing

By Staff | Jul 17, 2015

-Farm News photo by Kriss Nelson DEB ALLARD mixes a batch of tator tot casserole in her rural Gowrie home. Allard said she uses ingredients from her large gardens in almost every dish she prepares.


GOWRIE – Deb Allard’s love for everything baking, cooking and gardening, she said, comes from her upbringing, and she carries on many of those traditions today.

“I love to cook, can and preserve,” said Allard.

Decorating cakes and cookies for friends and relatives is something she’s known for, and that also became a large part of her life at a young age.

Allard has helped others learn the skill of decorating cakes and cookies by passing down what she learned from her grandmother, Florence Settell.

“Growing up around my grandma, when I was 9 years old, she taught me to decorate cakes,” said Allard.

It was at about that same age, Allard said she “earned her right of passage” to help the women freeze sweet corn.

Experiences in her Aunt Goldie Hatfield’s home stuck with Allard. Preserving the harvest from her family’s garden is something she enjoys.

Allard said tht her mother, Ginny Settell, was influential her love for freezing and canning goods. Settell also helps in the garden.

“Growing up, my mom always canned we had huge gardens and we ate what we had,” she said.

Allard and husband Wade Allard work hard, she said, tending to their two large gardens – one is 75-by-30-feet and the other 32-by-32-feet.

They grow everything, she said, including beans, peas, radishes, onions, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, sweet corn, melons, squash, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers.

They have such an inventory of vegetables in their garden, she said, it is easier to name things they do not grow.

When it comes to weeding the garden, Allard recommended not being afraid to leave some out there.

“Weeds aren’t always the enemy,” said Allard. “Take some of the big ones out, but the others will help shade seedlings from the direct, blunt sun of summer and will also help add dew to the plants in the morning.”

To help control bugs in viney plants, such as melons and especially tomatoes, Allard advised putting down wood shavings that are typically used for bedding animals more specifically the small to medium flake-sized shavings.

Then come fall, after harvest, the shavings get mixed into the soil, which Allard said will make for a softer soil in the spring.

Zinnias and marigolds, she said are also natural bug deterrents.

Thanks to all of their hard work in their gardens, Allard said her cupboards and freezers will be full and they won’t have worries for food throughout winter – even after sharing with family.

Sharing food is something Allard said she enjoys.

“Food is my thing,” said Allard.

In order to be prepared for the fall harvest season of lunches, Allard said she starts getting food ready in August.

She will prepare and freeze desserts; roast meat, make other dishes such as white chicken chili, stuffed meatloaf, tater tot casseroles and scalloped potatoes and ham, just to name a few.

Tater tot casserole

(Harvest version)

5 pounds hamburger, browned and grease drained

Quart bag of sweet corn or 3 cups of sweet corn

2 cups of green beans cut into half-inch long pieces

Frozen mixed bag of peas and carrots

1 to 2 cans of beef broth (Allard suggests starting with one. The broth helps to loosen the mixture and adds moisture so it doesn’t dry out while baking.)

4 cans of beef with vegetables and barley soup

2 cans creamy onion or French onion soup

1 can cream of mushroom soup or ream of celery soup

3-4 cups shredded cheese

Cook all vegetables together and them mix with the hamburger in a large bowl.

Add a can of beef broth or two; then add all of the soups and shredded cheese.

Spoon a small amount into a bowl and heat in microwave and taste to adjust flavor as needed.

Then spoon in 9-by-13-inch pans.

Place tater tots on top to cover the casserole.

These can be covered and frozen until needed.

Bake at 425 degrees until tater tots are crispy.

Serve with either garlic cheddar biscuits or buttery garlic rolls.

Each pan has about six to eight servings.

Note: To prepare a single meal, use one pound ground beef, two cans beef and barley soup, 3/4 to 1 cup of each vegetable; half can of beef broth; one to two cups shredded cheese and then prepare, bake and serve as above.

Chicken or turkey noodle stew

(Harvest version)

Roast a 20-pound turkey or chicken. To roast, first spray the turkey or chicken with Pam, then sprinkle it with a light coating of Lawry’s seasoning salt and then garlic and onion powders.

Place in a roasting pan with eight bouillon cubes and a half of a pan of water.

Roast at 350 degrees until done, no longer pink at the breastbone. Let cool and de-bone the turkey or chicken.

For broth, in a large canner-sized pot, pour two 64-ounce cans of chicken broth and then fill canner to half full with water.

Add eight to 10 chicken bouillion cubes, tablespoon each of garlic and onion powder. No need to add salt since the bouillion and broth typically have plenty. Add black pepper to taste.

Add noodles (Allard prefers frozen egg noodles 3/8-inch wide when dry), let simmer for 45 minutes or so.

Allard said this originated as a “clean-up stew” so as it is simmering, you add a quart of sweet corn, quart of diced green beans, large bag of frozen peas and carrots, chopped celery and diced potatoes if you have any of those left.

“You essentially clean out your deep freezer,” Allard said. Parsnips work, she said, but not zucchini.

Add the chicken or turkey back in, and keep adding broth or water as needed.

Simmer until noodles have at least doubled in size. Put into containers and freeze until ready to use.

Creamed peas

and taters

1 stick of margarine

1-3 cups flour


1 bag of frozen cooked peas

3 pounds of peeled, diced, cooked potatoes

Melt a stick of margarine in a Dutch oven or other large pot and salt and pepper to taste.

Add flour to make a dry roux, using anywhere from one to three cups, usually one. Cook for about three to four minutes and slowly add milk, stirring constantly to remove lumps.

When hot and bubbly, add the peas and as many potatoes as you want.

Allard said this is an awesome side dish with fried chicken and corn on the cob or even at Thanksgiving.

Tuna and noodles

(Not a casserole)

16-ounce bag or box of noodles, boiled

1 bag of frozen peas, cooked

Family-sized can of cream of chicken soup

2 to 4 cans of tuna (preferably packed in water)

1 cup shredded cheese

Add cooked noodles and peas together. Then add cream of chicken soup, tuna, fresh ground pepper to taste and cheese. Mix well.

Use some of the cooking water or some chicken broth to make it nice and smooth or juicy.

Mix well and heat again until hot and bubbly.

Spoon into bowls and serve with crushed potato chips.

Note: Allard said this may become a casserole by adding mixed ingredients into a baking dish and adding a little extra broth or water; top with cheese and add the chips after baking.

Turkey and spinach wheels

1 tube crescent rolls (regular, not flaky)

Garlic salt

Baby spinach leaves

Shaved turkey

Shredded cheese (any kind)

Unroll and squish seams of the dough together.

Spread with butter and sprinkle with garlic salt. Then add a layer of baby spinach leaves with the extra stems removed.

Add a single layer of thinly shaved turkey; then add a layer of shredded cheese.

Tightly roll and pinch seam edge together to keep it rolled.

Use a knife to slice, making 16 wheels. Allard said serrated knives work the best and to squeeze lightly on the sides to put some pressure on the ingredients to keep them in while cutting.

Parchment paper helps keep the cheese from sticking to the pan.

Place on a non-greased cookie sheet and bake according to crescent roll directions.

Allard said her family enjoys a sprinkle of extra cheese on top.

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