By Travis Svihovec
Jenn Van Beek of Pollock loves to bake. She doesn’t mind cooking either, but she draws the line at trying to cook anything that once had feathers.
“I can’t cook birds of any kind,” Jenn said. “I once called my mom crying because I was trying to make a turkey.”
Jenn is a 1998 graduate of Pollock High School. She attended North Dakota State University in Fargo for a couple years before moving to Casper, Wyo. She worked as a certified nursing assistant and then took a position as a surgery tech with a neurosurgeon. It was while she was living in Casper that she had the run-in with the turkey, which was a holiday gift from the hospital.
“I ended up so grossed out,” she said. “The giblets and everything were in there. I had to put gloves on. I couldn’t eat it.”
Jenn and husband Levi, also a Pollock High School grad, are the parents of two boys. Hank is 4 and Archer is 2. They live in Pollock and Levi works the Westfield farm where he grew up. He’s also a sheet metal foreman for Baete-Forseth. The boys like to help Jenn in the kitchen, especially when she’s baking.
“They love cupcakes and cookies,” she said.
It used to be that Jen enjoyed cooking more than she did baking. Now it’s the other way around.
“I hate to measure,” she said. “If you measure one thing wrong the whole thing is ruined. With cooking you just throw everything in.”
Jenn and Levi tend to four gardens during the growing season. Two are at their home in Pollock, one is at the home of her parents, Kent and Linda Meyer of Pollock, and the other is at the farm. They use much of the produce right out of the garden and can some for later use. This year was the first time they raised pumpkins, and some of those ended up as feed for the newest additions to the farm: goats.
“It turns out goats like pumpkins,” Jenn said. “Levi threw them in with the goats and smashed them up. They ate everything.”
During her eight years in Wyoming, Jenn also worked for the Lions organization. She collected corneas from donors, a job she said took an adjustment period.
“If you get used to being alone with them it’s OK,” she said.
Jenn works as a presenter for Younique, a cosmetics company. Most of her work is done over the Internet with her smartphone.
“That makes it nice with the boys,” she said.
She is a member of Pollock Memorial Presbyterian Church and a member of the Community Action League, which organizes things like the Halloween carnival, Santa Day, Easter egg hunts, and parks and recreation activities. She is currently serving as the president of the Pollock Town Board.
Jenn is also part of the all-school reunion committee. A reunion was held this summer and there won’t be another for five years, but the work is ongoing.
“Addresses are the big thing,” she said. “People move so much it’s crazy.”
JENN VAN BEEK’S RECIPES
Stuffed French Bread
1 loaf French bread
2 Tbsp. whole milk
1 lb. ground beef
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. finely diced onion
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
1 jar homemade cream of onion soup 1/4 cup melted butter (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F. Slice the French bread in half, lengthwise, so you have two equal pieces. Tear the bread out of the center of the loaves. Place torn bread in large bowl. Set the two halves of French bread onto a large baking sheet.
Brown ground beef and onion over medium-high heat. Add celery and garlic. Sauté 2 minutes, then add soup, milk, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Stir and cook until heated through.
Add the beef mixture to the bread in the large bowl, stir to combine. Pour mixture into the center of each French bread loaf. Spread out evenly and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Then brush the exposed edges of bread with melted butter and bake for 15 minutes. Then place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, watching carefully, until cheese is brown and bubbly. Let it sit 5 minutes before slicing.
Homemade Cream of “Whatever” Soup
2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk (I used 1 percent)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
You can replace the chicken broth with beef or vegetable broth or whatever you want to flavor your cream of soup with. I have also used 1 Tbsp. beef base, 1 Tbsp. chicken base, sautéed celery, onions, etc. I use sautéed onions almost every time I make this. It adds great flavor to any recipe. I use 1 medium onion for this recipe. You can use more or less, depending on your flavor preference. I add more milk if I am not using broth, like when I am making cream of onion soup.
In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Wisk in flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly stir in chicken broth, then milk. Whisk until it begins to thicken. Let it simmer for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
Milk chocolate frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. heavy cream
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12-count muffin pan with cupcake liners. This recipe makes 24 to 28 cupcakes, so you may have four cupcakes to bake in a third batch.
Make the cupcakes:
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 3-4 minutes until creamed together fairly well. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add two eggs and the vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the whole milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix. The batter will be smooth, velvety, and slightly thick.
Spoon batter into cupcake liners filling slightly less than halfway full. Bake for 18-21 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when gently touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Mine usually take 20 minutes. Don’t overbake; your cupcakes will dry out. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Make the frosting: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 2 full minutes. This creates a creamy base for the frosting. Turn speed to low and slowly add 3 cups of confectioners’ sugar, the cocoa powder, and salt. Beat until sugar/cocoa are absorbed into the butter, about 2 minutes. Turn mixer to medium speed and add the vanilla and cream. Once added, turn the mixer to high speed and beat for 1 minute. Add the last 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar if you’d like to increase the frosting’s thickness. Pipe or spread the frosting onto cooled cupcakes. I usually use a small icing knife. Decorate with sprinkles.
Make ahead tip: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Decorate/assemble cupcakes immediately before serving. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 3 days. Unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
(I believe this is a Paula Deen recipe. I use a homemade cake mix, but you could also substitute a yellow cake mix box from the store.)
Homemade cake mix or 1 box of yellow cake mix
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 300F and generously coat a 9×13-inch dish with butter or nonstick cooking spray.
Mix cake mix, melted butter and one egg to a soft dough. Press into the bottom of the pan.
Mix powdered sugar, softened cream cheese and remaining two eggs until smooth, about 1 to 2 mins. I do this in my stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Pour on top of crust.
Bake at 300F for 40 to 50 minutes until top is golden brown. Let cool completely before cutting.
Homemade Yellow Cake Mix
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1⁄2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1⁄2 cup nonfat powdered milk
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and non-fat dry milk. Store in an airtight container or baggie. Keeps well in the pantry for months.
Use to replace in recipes calling for a standard-size 18.25 ounce store-bought yellow cake mix: Use in any recipe calling for a yellow cake mix as a base (add 1 tsp. vanilla to the recipe along with the cake mix as the recipe will assume vanilla was included in the store-bought mix).