Deciding he was tired of Ramen noodles, Brett Van Vugt ventured into cooking just out of high school. He has discovered he inherited the cooking gene from his grandma, Anita Van Vugt.
“I decided to cook a good meal and found out I was pretty good at it,” he said. “I have been pretty lucky at cooking. I went in it not expecting to be this good.”
Brett, a 2016 graduate of Mobridge-Pollock High School, was born and raised in Mobridge and has good memories of being in his grandma’s kitchen with cousins Brodie and Jason Van Vugt.
“We would bug her until she made dough for us,” he laughed. “She let us play with it.”
He remembers Anita letting him help her with the dough and teaching him about cooking and baking along the way. He likes making cookies and has a couple of favorites, chocolate ship and Oreo, that he bakes on his own.
Brett said his favorite foods at his grandma’s house include just about anything she makes, but kuchen, knoephla and strudels are his favorites.
He also loves a good steak. Rib-eye cuts are his favorite and he makes his own rub for the meat for grilling, but he is not parting with the secret recipe for that rub.
“There are just some things people don’t need to know,” he laughed.
He also loves vegetables. All kinds, made all different ways.
His mother, Danette, isn’t as open to new tastes as her son.
“She is really a picky eater and is hard to cook for,” he said. “I like cooking with things like mushrooms and onions and spices. She won’t have anything to do with it.”
Brett loves the outdoors and wants to fish as much as possible. He fishes all year long, but has waited anxiously for open water this spring.
“If the ice is breaking up a little bit, I am out there casting a line,” he said.
He fries his fish but again chose not to share his recipes for batters and dips.
Hunting is a family affair with West River deer hunting trips with his dad, Tate Merchant, and an uncle being an annual event. Brett prefers coyote hunting, something he says he loves to do.
Brett works at PIC and is also a member of the South Dakota National Guard.
He has two dogs, Milo and Otis.
Brett also volunteers at Scarecrow Hollow in the late summer and fall, helping with the annual fundraiser for local groups and charities.
Brett Van Vugt’s Recipes
1 lb ground beef
4 Tbsp. taco seasoning
4 oz cream cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 can Bud Light
1/3 jar salsa
1/2 cup milk
Brown hamburger over medium heat, add taco seasoning when completely cooked. Add beer and salsa and cook for two to three minutes. In a separate saucepan mix cream cheese, shredded cheese and milk over medium low heat. Melt and combine completely. Incorporate cheese sauce and meat mixture. Cook for two to three minutes. Serve warm with tortilla chips.
Tide Pod Cookies
(Do not actually use Tide Pods!)
2 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Vanilla frosting and food color
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl stir together flour, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Roll dough onto a flat sheet, surface or cutting board. Use cup to cut circles out of dough. Lightly press in on either side of circles to create a square shape. Place cookies on baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. In a small bowl mix blue food coloring and part of the frosting. In another mix red and yellow food coloring to make orange frosting. Once the cookies are cool, frost the entire cookie with white frosting. Use the blue frosting to make a crescent moon shape on one side of the cookie, Do the same with orange frosting on the other side. Refrigerate for a few minutes before serving.
Pizza dough for one crust
1/2 cup Thousand Island dressing
6 slices Swiss cheese
2 cups sauerkraut
1/2 lb corned beef
Roll dough to desired size, place on pizza pan. Spread layer of Thousand Island dressing over the crust, lay Swiss cheese slices over the dressing. Top with sauerkraut and corned beef. Top all with shredded mozzarella. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.
Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese
3 jalapeno peppers, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
6 slices white bread
Butter, room temperature
Cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 Tbsp crumbled tortilla chips
Place the peppers on a baking sheet cut side down. Broil on the top shelf of oven for about 10 minutes. Butter the outside of each slice of bread and spread cream cheese on inside. Top with two jalapenos and sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Add the crumbled tortilla chips. Cook in a pan over medium heat until cheese is melted and bread is golden brown.