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Zerr uses life lessons from mother while cooking

By Trent Abrego

Growing up in a family with six siblings taught Katie Zerr many life lessons, including that everybody has a role in a family.
Katie learned this lesson when her mother told her to watch the bean soup that was cooking on a Dutch oven stove.
Instead of obeying and watching the soup, little Katie went out and played. The soup simmered dry and stuck to the bottom of the pan, ruining a meal.
She faced her consequences. When her mother found out, she had Katie scrub the pan clean not just once but several times.
“I think it was clean the first time,” Katie said. “She just made me do it a few times to prove her point.”
If having seven kids wasn’t enough for the Zerr household, there were regularly railroad men, who were friends of her father, over eating dinner with the family.
Despite working long hours at the Mobridge Tribune as editor, Katie finds time in her days to cook and bake family staples that she was introduced to early on in life.
Katie, a 1973 graduate of Mobridge High School, lives in Mobridge with her dog, Dante. After high school, Katie attended Northern State College and graduated in1981.
In her spare time, she enjoys gardening and working in her yard. Her green thumb often translates to fresh vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers that she can incorporate in her cooking.
Her love for gardening dates to when she was in her childhood.
Another role in her family, was to tend to the garden. Her mother and family grew a big garden every year.
Her six siblings and she each had their own role in cultivating the annual garden.
While she didn’t have time to cultivate a vegetable garden this year, she often uses her home-grown tomatoes to make salsa and spaghetti sauce.
This summer, she is focusing on keeping her flower beds up to date and in shape.
When she isn’t in her garden or cooking, Katie calls herself a “news junkie.” She reads newspapers, magaines and watches the news on the TV.
If she isn’t watching news, Katie will watch the Chicago Cubs. She is a die-hard fan.
“I bleed Cubbie blue,” Katie said.
Before she was a Cubs fan, Katie remembers heading down to the lake with a fishing rod, sunflower seeds and a radio.
On that radio, she would turn her dial to the Minnesota Twins and listen to the late Herb Carneal, who called Twins games from 1962 to 2006.
Katie is also a fan of the Minnesota Vikings and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Katie can recall sitting down with her father on Saturdays and watching the Irish, because that was the only team regularly broadcasted on the television.
When growing up in Mobridge, Katie was a fan of her mom’s cooking, her favorite being ‘Grandma Junne’s Chicken and Dumplings.’
“She just had the touch, I can’t get them as soft as she did,” Katie said about the dumplings. “They were like little pillows.”
When she first started at the Mobridge Tribune, 17 years ago, Katie was cooking for her mother also, but now she is just cooking for herself.
Often, this allows Katie to cook one dish meals, her favorite being spaghetti. She also likes to cook oriental foods such as lo mein and moo goo gai pan.
Depending on the season, Katie changes up her meals. In the winter, Katie will frequently cook soups or stews which allow her to reheat them with relative ease later in the week.
While she has never been a big baker, Katie has started to see a shift in that trend and is baking more than ever.
“I’m kind of an outside the lines person, I like cooking because you can throw in a dash of this or that” Katie said, “But, with baking you have to follow the recipe.
Katie has been making bars, cookies and brownies to gift to her neighbors.

Katie Zerr’s Recipes

Grandma Junne’s Chicken and Dumplings
1 chicken, cut up (I use all thighs for the taste)
2 qts water
Chicken base to taste
2 Tbsps chopped parsley
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup chopped peeled potatoes
1 1/2 tsps. seasoned salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 bay leaves
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsps baking powder
1 tspn salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 large egg, beaten
2 tsp butter, melted
3/4 to 1 cup milk
Chopped fresh parsley, optional
2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Add vegetable oil to stock pot, brown chicken over medium high heat, until golden on both sides. Reduce heat and let cool a bit before slowly adding water. Return heat to medium high and add chicken base. Cover and bring to a boil; skim foam. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 45 minutes or until chicken is tender, adding celery and onion and Bay leave at half-way point.
Remove chicken and set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove meat and skin from bones; discard bones and skin and cut chicken into chunks. Cool broth and skim off fat.
Return chicken to stockpot with remaining vegetables and seasonings; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Thicken with mixture of all purpose flour and milk. Mixture should texture of gravy. Add thickening slowly, mixing constantly until broth is desired thickness.
For dumplings, combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir in egg, butter and enough milk to make a moist stiff batter. Drop by spoonful into soup. Cover and cook over medium low heat without lifting the lid for 18-20 minutes (a bit longer if added cheese). Sprinkle with parsley if desired. Yield: 12 servings (3 quarts).

Cucumber Salsa
4 large cucumbers, peeled and finely diced
6 vine-ripe tomatoes, finely diced
1 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped (can use regular parsley)
1 medium red onion, diced
1 diced jalapeno
¼ cup red wine vinegar (more if needed to taste)
1 (1-ounce) packet ranch dressing mix
salt and pepper
Combine first five ingredients in a large bowl.
Add vinegar, ranch dressing, salt and pepper; toss until well coated.
Add a pinch of sugar if needed to balance the vinegary taste. Serve with tortilla chips or Scoops.

Pheasant Forever
Cut pheasant breasts into cubes and marinate in beer for at least one hour.
While pheasant is marinating, mix together:
2 eggs
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp soy sauce
Dash cider vinegar
In a flat pan mix;
1 cup flour
1/3 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp Allspice
1/3 tsp garlic salt
Roll cubes in sauce then bread with flour. Deep fry until golden brown.

Beef Carrot Casserole
1 lb hamburger
1 Tbsp butter
½ medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper
1 6-ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup cottage cheese
½ sour cream
1 cup sliced cooked carrots
1 8-ounce package thick egg noodles, cooked
Brown beef, onion and garlic, stir in tomato sauce, salt and pepper. Simmer for five minutes. Combine cottage cheese, sour cream, parsley and carrots. In a oiled casserole dish, alternate the mixtures with cooked noodles, top with shredded cheese of your choice. I use mozzarella.
Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

Blueberry Pudding Cake
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen blueberries, use without thawing to avoid discoloring the batter.)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk
3 Tbsps butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup boiling water
Toss the blueberries with cinnamon and lemon juice; place in a greased 8-inch square baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar and baking powder; stir in milk and butter. Spoon over berries.
Combine sugar and cornstarch; sprinkle over batter. Slowly pour boiling water over all. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake portion comes out clean. Yield: 9 servings.