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Cooking to eat and stay in practice

By Staff | Jan 8, 2016

SHARON BARKEMA’S meatballs are enjoyed by family and at community potlucks.



KLEMME – Sharon Barkema said she cooks to feed the family, but also to keep her edge in making good food.

“Use it or lose it; you need to stay in practice,” Barkema said.

Barkema lives on a farm south of Klemme in southern Hancock County, where she and her husband Keith raise corn, soybeans and operate a trucking business.

SHARON BARKEMA’S meatballs are ready to come out of the oven.

Sharon Barkema said she grew up as the youngest of three children on a farm about 10 miles from where she now lives.

She learned to cook from her mother.

“I was always in the kitchen,” she said. “I was always watching her.”

She has a love of cookbooks and acquired many of them in her first two years of marriage.

“I did get rid of quite few of them,” she said.

SHARON BARKEMA’S kringla is one of her great-grandmother’s recipes.

Cookbooks remain her favorite reading material.

“I can just sit and read them for hours,” she said. “It’s great when I try a new recipe and it’s great. I think I better keep that one.”

Cooking is an important part of the Barkema household. A grill that sits outside on the deck of their home may have a covering of snow, but it is used all year long.

Their garden includes tomatoes, peppers, onions and sweet corn. The sweet corn is planted with a goal of being the first for sale at the farmer’s market in nearby Belmond.

The garden produce is used to make salsa, a family favorite.

SHARON BARKEMA said she grew weary of cracked or broken frozen pie crusts and now all her pies have home made crusts.

Besides their garden, the Barkemas gather asparagus in season from area ditches, then wrap it in bacon and cook it.

Keith Barkema will collect enough asparagus to fill two five-gallon pails.

Sharon Barkema’s meatball recipe is from the St. Olaf Lutheran Church cookbook, located northwest of Belmond, and was contributed by one of her Sunday school teachers.

When she made the meatballs for her son’s FFA banquet, she was told by her son to put the meatballs at the end of the food line so when people got to it, their plates would already be full so they wouldn’t take any.

He wanted to have meatballs to take home.

The meatballs appeared at every FFA banquet after that.

Barkema said her pecan pie brought $100 at a pie auction to raise funds. While the high bidder was her father-in-law, she said pecan pie was his favorite and he knew what he was buying.

After buying frozen pie crusts at a grocery store that were frequently cracked or broken, Barkema said she decided to make her own pie crusts.

Her milk lefse recipe is different from traditional lefse because it does not use potatoes.

Barkema remembers her grandmother making sheets of lefse and storing them in stacks.

They do not need refrigeration to be stored, which was another advantage.

Barkema said she has never made potato lefse, only the milk recipe.

A traditional Christmas meal for the Barkemas is placing chicken and rice on the lefse.

Her oyster stew is a favorite of Keith Barkema’s. He recommends putting Tabasco sauce on the oysters.

Keith Barkema is a volunteer for Farm Rescue, an organization that helps farm families in distress and in need of getting crops planted or harvested.

He can be in North Dakota one week and South Dakota or Iowa the next week depending on the need.


3 pounds hamburger (93/7)

1 13-ounce can evaporated milk

2 cups oatmeal

2 eggs

1/2 cup onion, chopped

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons chili powder

Mix together and scoop into balls with an ice cream scoop, placing in a baking dish.

Mix and pour over meatballs:

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/2 to 1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon chopped onion

2 tablespoons liquid smoke

2 cups catsup

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Freezes well.

Oyster stew

2 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Dash of Tabasco sauce

2 tablespoons water

1/4 cup butter

1 pint oysters

1 quart milk

Make a roux with the first six ingredients.

Then add the oysters with juice and cook until oysters curl.

Then add the 1 quart milk, scalded.

Cook for 15 minutes or so, and then it’s ready to serve.

Great-grandma Hefte’s kringla

2 cups sugar

Pinch of salt

3 cups sour cream

1 cup buttermilk

2 level teaspoons baking soda, sifted

1 cup butter, melted

6 1/2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon almond extract

Mix together sugar, salt, sour cream, buttermilk and baking soda with a wooden spoon, stirring carefully until everything is dissolved.

Then stir in melted butter and almond flavoring. Add the flour and baking powder.

Chill overnight.

Using a cookie scoop, measure out a ball of dough. Roll the dough into a rope and then into a figure 8.

Bake at 475 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

English muffin loaves

Makes 2 loaves.

2 packages active dry yeast

6 cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon soda

2 cups milk

1/2 cup water


Combine 3 cups flour with yeast, sugar, salt and soda.

Heat liquids to very warm. Add to dry mixture and beat well.

Stir in rest of flour to make a stiff batter.

Spoon into bread pans that have been greased and sprinkled with corn meal.

Sprinkle top with cornmeal.

Cover and let rise for 45 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

Milk lefse

1 cup boiling milk

2 cups white flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons lard or butter

Add milk to cup of flour. Stir until well mixed. Stir in salt and butter or lard.

When cool, add second cup of flour.

Divide into eight pieces for rolling.


Roll very thin and bake on lefse griddle.

Lay out flat and let it dry like flat bread.

When you are ready to use, sprinkle with water and layer between dish towels.

Refrigerate overnight.

Pecan pie

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup brandy

1 cup chopped pecans

Unbaked pie shell

Stir all ingredients together and pour into the pie shell.

Bake 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

Then turn down oven to 300 degrees and bake for 35 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

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