Experimenting in the kitchen
By JOLENE STEVENS
LE MARS – A wooden box of well-worn smudged recipe cards atop a table in Carol Zimmer’s kitchen bear out her confession.
“I like to experiment when I’m in the kitchen and to try new things, to do what I have to do to make something taste good,” Zimmer said, fingering through the recipe cards. “A lot of times it’s rearranging things to suit myself.
“I really don’t measure too well and like how something feels to my hands,” she added. “Quite simply, I just enjoy cooking.”
Zimmer said she descended from a long line bakers – her mother and her mother’s five siblings.
“For me it wasn’t until I got married that I really got into cooking and baking because it helped to supplement our family budget,” Zimmer said. “Mother, who spent a lot of her own time working on our family’s farm, near Wapello, really hadn’t had a lot of time to teach her family how to cook.
“We never had candy. There was pumpkin pie occasionally, and our cookies were soda crackers with a marshmallow on them.”
Zimmer said all this would change, however, following her marriage to the late Eugene Zimmer and the couple began raising their own family, including sons; Terry, a Tyson’s supervisor in Omaha, and Eugene, manager of Le Mars Public Storage; and daughters; Marion, the cook at Floyd Valley Healthcare in Le Mars; and Becky Greeves, an employee at the Sugar Shack in Sioux City, which was a recent recipient of a state Food Network award for its own special decorated cookie.
Zimmer hopes in-the-kitchen joys may be shared by her eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“Getting married to Eugene (a construction worker for W.A. Klinger in Sioux City) and moving about the U.S. for seven years sort of set the stage for my own cooking and baking endeavors,” she said. “I started out simply baking for a friend with diabetes, and it all just mushroomed from there.
“After our first two children were born, I found it a way I could help supplement our budget as a family, and for me, well, I just like to eat.”
Word of mouth led to peoples’ awareness of Zimmer’s baking, which kept her busy.
“I still keep getting calls even though I can’t do it any longer,” she said, while noting she still spends plenty of time taking things out of the oven for special events for her family.
When asked of her favorite recipes, Zimmer said it’s a hard question to answer.
She listed several which are popular with her family and past customers, such as Kentucky bourbon chocolate chip pecan pie, or her Aunt Mable’s sugar cookies, as well as a holiday – or any other occasion – sugar cookie that is “rolled out, rolled out and rolled out,” always retaining its pliability on the cutting board.
When taking the occasional kitchen break, two of Zimmer’s other special interests are also apparent as in the case of the nearly completed quilt on the quilting rack and the array of green plants and blooming flowers.
The quilt has its own story.
“My grandmother and aunts were all quilters,” she said. “When my aunt was going blind she gave me this one to finish some 60 years ago now.”
“I figure it’s time to get it done before long and keep working at it,” Zimmer added, while noting all the pieces quilted by her aunt on a treadle sewing machine are from fabrics of the 1930s.
Aunt Mable’s sugar cookies
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs
Combine above and then add, mixing well:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond
Bake (with testing) for 16 minutes in 350-degree oven.
Kentucky bourbon chocolate chip pecan pie
4 large eggs (well beaten)
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 cup white syrup
1 stick melted margarine
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chocolate chips
Mix well and place in unbaked pie shell.
Bake in 425 degree oven for 25 to 20 minutes and lower oven to 375 degrees baking an additional 45 minutes or until pie sets.
Reliable roll-out sugar cookies
(For any occasion)
Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Blend above ingredients well and mix ingredients below separately:
3 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1 cup shortening, cut into above ingredients as with pie crust.
Pour liquid mixture into mixing well. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator
Roll on floured board. Bake 10 minutes in 350 degree oven.
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