Crazy For Cooking

Rim woman shares years of kitchen expertise

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Star Valley resident Shirley Snyder says her love of cooking and recipe invention evolved from the need to get dinner on the table quickly during her days as a working mother.

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Shirley Snyder has quite a collection of kitchen tools and gadgets, but her favorite tools are her knives. Snyder’s recipe for Double Meatloaf appears in the 2009 Taste of Home cookbook.

Exploring a Taste of Home cookbook — Freezer Pleasers (which I first bought for my sisters and then for myself this Christmas), I came across a recipe from Payson (Star Valley) resident Shirley Snyder. My first thought was I had to see if she was still in town and do a story with her. She was and this is it.

I had actually met her once before — though I didn’t recall it until she reminded me. Snyder was an entrant in the 2005 Payson Roundup recipe contest, winning with her Latvian Pork Chops. It is a really delicious way to eat sauerkraut, so for those who missed it.

Shirley Snyder’s Latvian Sweet & Sour Kraut with Pork

6 medium pork loin chops (and/or 1 large rack pork baby back ribs, cut into 2 rib portions and/or 2 Pork Polish sausage rings, cut into 2-inch pieces)

1 package of fresh kraut (found in the refrigerated case with the hot dogs and sausage)

1 No. 2 can peeled, diced tomatoes in juice

1 medium cooking apple peeled, cored and chopped

1 medium yellow or white onion chopped

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 large or 2 small bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon caraway seed (optional)

4 juniper berries (optional)

Drippings from browning the pork

Brown any one or combination of pork to serve six. Remove from pan and reserve drippings.

Thoroughly rinse kraut at least 4 times, the more the better. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

In a large, flat casserole or 13-inch-by-9-inch glass baking pan, mix all ingredients together, except the pork. Once mix is done, top with pork. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake 1-1/2 hours at 350 degrees. If pork chops are fairly thick or if all ribs are used, add another 20 to 30 minutes.

Snyder’s recipe in the 2009 Taste of Home cookbook, published by Reiman Media Group, Inc., was for Double Meat Loaf.

Shirley Snyder’s Double Meat Loaf

1 egg

1 cup beef broth

1/2 cup quick cooking oats

1 tablespoon dried minced onion

2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef

1 pound bulk pork sausage

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce, halved

Combine egg, broth, oats, onion, parsley, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Top with crumbled beef and sausage and mix well. Using two greased 8-inch-by-4-inch loaf pans, divide meat mixture in half and pat down, and then cover each with the tomato sauce.

To bake immediately, place in 350-degree oven for 55 to 60 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 160 degrees. To freeze, cover with heavy-duty foil.

To use frozen meat loaf, thaw in refrigerator overnight; removing from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake as directed above.

Each meat loaf should yield from 4 to 6 servings.

Snyder loves cooking and said she has probably entered about a dozen recipe contests over the years. The first she entered was in 1957, sponsored by a television station in Yakima, Wash. Her love of cooking and recipe modification and invention evolved from the need to get dinner on the table as quickly as possible in her early days as a working mother.

She shared some of her contest experiences and recipes when we met recently at the home she shares with her husband Harold in Star Valley.

She titles her tale, “My Wildest Cooking Contest.”

Back in the late ’70s, I entered the local Seattle, Wash. Heart Association “Cooking Heart Smart” contest and was chosen as a finalist. Unfortunately, the day before the contest found me recuperating in a hospital in Tacoma, Wash.

My husband informed me the association had called with the details and time of the contest, which was scheduled for the next day. Not wanting to be left out, I gave my husband a long list of what to pack and what ingredients to purchase. I checked myself out of the hospital and he picked me up early the next morning and we drove to Seattle.

The contestants were to prepare their dishes the night before to be judged the next day on a morning talk show.

The Heart Association made one big mistake in the rules: it had not stipulated “No Professionals” were to participate.

The contestants were staying at a well-known hotel in Seattle where the talk show was to be presented the following morning. The hotel’s head pastry chef was entered in the contest. All the other participants were to prepare their entries at a local junior college home economics department the night before. The hotel chef was given the hotel kitchen in which to prepare his entry the morning of the contest. Naturally, his entry was much fresher than ours.

The outcome of the contest: the hotel chef went on vacation to Cancun, Mexico and I won my fifth television set and an apology from the Heart Association. I was told that, without the chef’s entry, I would have won first prize.

What I had prepared was a totally heart smart dessert — since I was in the hospital for a heart ailment, the win with this entry made it quite appropriate.

Heart Smart Crepes

Batter

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup lukewarm water

2 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

Blend all ingredients in a blender and let stand 10 minutes. Meanwhile, spray Pam in a 9-inch non-stick fry pan and pour approximately 2 tablespoons of the batter in the center of the pan and quickly run the batter over the bottom of the pan to form a crepe pancake.  As quickly as it is brown on one side, run a table knife around the edge and, using a spatula, flip the crepe over — only let it cook until set, not brown. Continue making crepes and setting aside with wax paper between each crepe. Set aside. The crepes can be refrigerated overnight.

Filling

1 Jell-O Vanilla or French Vanilla instant pudding mix

1 small container of vanilla yogurt

1 small container low-fat Cool Whip

1 tsp of vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix completely for 3 minutes with and electric hand mixer

Topping

1 cup chopped (with a little of the juice) any one of a combination of kiwi, banana, oranges, canned litchis or other fresh fruit. (I use oranges and squeeze the juice from segmenting the peeled oranges.)

1 to 2 packets of Equal, depending on the fruits used

Mix thoroughly and let stand 5 minutes.

When ready to serve, place on 1/3 side of the non-brown side of the crepe a good 2 heaping tablespoons of filling and fold crepe over leaving the brown side out, tucking under the two edge flaps. Spoon fruit mixture over crepe. Garnish with a mint leaf or raspberry or whatever is at hand.

I have been fortunate enough to win first prize in a National Cooking Contest and, as a result, received a set of very fine copper layered bottom cookware, which I have used for more than 25 years.

I have also won a total of five television sets in various cooking contests. So if a TV is the prize, I no longer enter that contest.

I’d like to share with you several of the recipes, which have won contests for me.

When you work all day it is impossible to come home and prepare a long-braised, juicy Pot Roast, so I invented this method. It is probably my favorite of all my recipes.

Working Girl Pot Roast

1 7-bone blade chuck roast wrapped in foil and frozen solid; size doesn’t matter. (I keep 3 in the freezer)

Just before you go to work, using either a glass or metal 13-inch-by-9-inch pan, place the frozen roast without the wrapping. Season on both sides with salt and pepper or seasoning salt, cover with heavy foil. Turn the oven to 200 degrees and place the pan with the roast in the oven and forget it.

When you arrive home, peel 1 yellow onion and slice and add 6 or 8 carrots peeled and sliced and 4 or 6 medium potatoes quartered and place in a pot; just barely cover with salted water; cook until tender.  Add 2 beef bullion cubes or 2 teaspoons of beef concentrate to the vegetables. Simmer until completely cooked through.

Now open the oven door and take out your roast. It will be fork tender and have lots of juice in the pan.

Pour off the juice into a pan; if needed, add some of the beefy vegetable water and 1/2 teaspoon of Kitchen Bouquet (a meat flavor and colorant readily available in the supermarket) and thicken for gravy with cornstarch. Your Pot Roast meal is done.

Now if you do not want all the vegetables and gravy, you can skip them. Instead, take the roast out and shred with two forks adding bottled barbecue sauce (I like Masterpiece with brown sugar) to make a barbecued beef. Serve on buns. If you want the meal to be “real southern,” either buy at the deli or make cole slaw and heap on top of bun and beef. You’ll never eat better.

This is not my recipe, but I won’t make prime rib without it

No Peekie Roast Beefie

4 pound (or larger) prime rib roast

Set out for several hours to come to room temperature (54 degrees). Wash under running water and pat dry with paper towels.

Poke small holes all over the roast and fill with slivers of 3 cloves of garlic. Sprinkle all over with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Place in a roasting pan and put in a 375-degree oven for 1 hour (NO PEEKING).

Turn off the oven for 1 to 3 hours (NO PEEKING).

When within 45 minutes of serving, turn oven on to 325 degrees and roast for 25 minutes, then remove meat and let rest, tented with foil for 15 minutes.

You will have prime rib medium to rare perfection.

For those of us who have trouble baking cakes in Payson and Star Valley — we really do have an altitude problem.

High Altitude Baking

Decrease baking powder by 1/8 teaspoon or 15 percent for altitude of 5,000 feet or close.

Decrease baking powder by 25 percent for 7,000 feet or more.

Increase liquid by 2 to 3 tablespoons per cup of flour, based on 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

You can decrease sugar by 1 to 3 tablespoons per cup, based on 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

After my first five years in this area, I finally figured out what was wrong and why my cakes fell in the middle.  Now I am baking really good cakes.

Here is a complete menu and recipes for the working woman (or man), who has to get a quick dinner together for a special occasion.

The Working Girl Gourmet Fiesta Menu 

Sopa de Quarto de Hora con Camarones (15-minute soup with shrimp)

Taquitos en Enchiladas Salsa (Taquitos Enchilada Style)

Ensalada y Romaine (Romaine with Chili dressing)

Tortillas con Queso Especial (Special Cheese Crisps)

Flan Sancilla (Caramel Flan)

Make your dessert and set your table the night before. Refrigerate dessert in the dish it was baked in until ready to serve.

Flan Sancilla (Caramel Flan)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3-3/4 cups simmering milk (half and half is better)

1 stick of cinnamon

2 teaspoons pure vanilla

Pinch of salt

5 eggs

4 egg yolks

Bring 1/2 cup granulated sugar to the boiling point stirring continually until caramelized to deep amber. Remove from heat and continue stirring until all lumps dissolve. Then quickly pour into a 9-inch-by-9-inch round Pyrex baking pan. Turn the pan in all directions to cover the bottom and sides with the caramelized sugar. Cool to room temperature.

Heat the milk, add 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon stick, vanilla and salt. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, beat eggs and egg yolks together. Stir them into the hot milk mixture.  Strain through a sieve into your caramel lined pan. Set the pan in a larger pan and set both into a 350-degree oven pouring boiling water into the outside pan to a level of half inch around the pan of custard. Bake 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Take out of the water bath and refrigerate overnight.

Let custard set out during dinner. Run a knife around the edge and place a plate larger than the baking pan and slightly cup shaped to hold the sauce on top and quickly invert. Do this over the sink in case you are not fast enough and some sauce spills. Cut in pie wedges and serve with a spoonful or two of sauce.

The next day after work, stop at the grocery store and purchase these items.

1 carton of Delimex beef taquitos

1 large jar mild black bean and corn salsa

1 pack of grated cheddar cheese

1 small carton whipped cream cheese

1 small can chopped green chilis

1 package 10-inch flour tortillas

1 package of prewashed Romaine hearts

1 red Bermuda onion

1 carton of sour cream

1 jar of Best Foods Mayonnaise (if you don’t have at home)

1 small jar sweet pickle relish (if you don’t have at home)

1 bunch green onions

1 container of cooked, crumbled bacon bits

Eggs (if you don’t have at least 2 at home)

Catsup (if you don’t have at home)

Chili powder (if you don’t have at home)

Cayenne pepper (if you don’t have at home)

Cumin (in the spice dept)

1 bottle of clam juice

1 large can V8 juice

1 lemon

6 or 8 large cooked prawns or 12 medium

Once you arrive home and have one hour to prepare your feast.

Taquitos en Enchiladas Salsa

(Taquitos Enchilada Style Casserole)

In your prettiest, shallow oven-proof dish, arrange as many of the Delimex taquitos you can get in one layer.

Spoon salsa over, but don’t drown.

Generously cover with grated cheese

Very lightly sprinkle sparingly with cumin.

Place in a 375-degree oven until heated through and bubbly.

Ensalada y Romaine (Romaine with Chili dressing)

As casserole is heating, wash and chop the Romaine and thinly slice half of the Bermuda onion. Cover both and refrigerate.

Hard boil two eggs and place in ice water to cool. Set aside

Salad Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon pickle relish,

2 green onions, finely chopped

3 or 4 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

A little of juice from half a lemon

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Combine ingredients (taste for the level of sweet to sour and strength of chili flavor). Refrigerate.

To prepare the salad for serving, toss the chopped Romaine with the sliced Bermuda onion; layer with chopped hard-boiled eggs and generously sprinkle with crumbled bacon bits. Serve the dressing on the side.

Sopa de Quarto de Hora con Camarones (15-minute soup with shrimp)

Drain the green chilies and reserve the liquid (it won’t be much)

In a large saucepot place the V8 Juice, the clam juice, juice of half a lemon and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. Add the liquid from the green chilis and simmer while you make the cheese crisps. Taste for flavor and correct seasonings if needed. Add the chopped cooked prawn meat just before serving.

Tortillas con Queso Especial

(Special Cheese Crisps)

Mix half of the green chilis with half of the whipped cream cheese. Salt lightly and thinly spread on two 10-inch flour tortillas. Top each tortilla with another tortilla. Just before serving the soup melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 12-inch fry pan and slip in the tortilla, brown on both sides. Repeat with the second tortilla. Cut in wedges and place on a warm plate covering with a napkin and serve with the soup.

Anybody can make a pie

Using a pre-formed piecrust, bake and cool

Using 1/2 jar of Dickinson Lemon Curd (Safeway has it) spread over the bottom of a baked cooled pie shell.

Fold the other half of the lemon curd into a carton of extra rich Cool Whip and spread on top of the pie shell with the lemon curd.

Top with toasted coconut or grated lemon zest or both. Chill for one hour.

Snyder’s love of cooking has resulted in quite a collection of kitchen tools and gadgets.

“Harold says I have every gadget there is, but I still have a few I want,” she said.

The most recent addition is a professional grade Kitchen Aid stand mixture, with a 600-horsepower motor. Her favorite tools are her knives. She is especially fond of the French Sabatier cleaver-style knife and the little Henckels bird’s beak knife. “I probably use these two more than all the others,” she said.

Being crazy for cooking, naturally Snyder has a large collection of cookbooks and two large binders of recipes she has taken out of different publications. However, there are a couple of cooking magazines she keeps whole and collects: Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country Illustrated, both are free of advertisements and often have recipes for old favorites that can’t be found elsewhere, plus good step-by-step directions. They also both have a section that compares different cooking equipment and tools. Snyder recommends every cook get a subscription to both magazines. They can also be found at several area stores’ magazine sections.

Snyder is such an accomplished cook, she taught classes at RV Resorts for a number of years when she and her husband wintered in Arizona from Washington. The most frequently asked question she heard was: “Why does it look so good and never tastes as good (as it looks)?”

She said, more often than not, the answer was the student was not familiar with the spices used in the recipe and what the combinations of the different spices do.

The Snyders started snowbirding in Arizona in 1991 and moved to the Rim Country in 1994.

“Harold says we looked everywhere for another place to live, but we couldn’t find anything better than here,” Snyder said.

They did the looking during their many travels. They have been all over the U.S. and Canada in their RV and spent a long vacation (two months) in Alaska. The couple has also traveled to Russia and throughout Europe.

While cooking is her longtime passion, Snyder also enjoyed machine knitting, hand knitting, crochet and needlework for many years, but doesn’t pursue any of it much anymore. The 78-year-old is bothered by arthritis in her hands, and said she has more needlepoint pillows than she needs.

These days, she spends a lot of time on her computer. She is writing a book about her parents. Her father was a genius, she said. He taught aviation engineering in its infancy at MIT when he only had a high school diploma. “He was phenomenal,” Snyder said.

Her mother grew up in mining camps where her mother (Snyder’s grandmother) worked as a cook.

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