Illinois News

Crowd pleasing

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 9, 2020 12:01 am Updated: Sep. 13, 2020 12:00 am


Cooking for a crowd never bothers Dianna Arnsman.

"I don't care who's at my table," the Mendon woman said. "There's always room for one more."

Arnsman follows that philosophy whether making meals for her family or for the students at St. James Lutheran School, where she's spent 18 years in the kitchen cooking "like I cook for my own kids."

Admittedly, she won't please every palate every day, but she always tries to find dishes that everyone will like or love.

Putting together several favorites into a casserole she named Blessing in a Bowl created a dish which smells "just like Thanksgiving dinner" while baking in the oven.

"It's comfort food. I make it for families who have lost someone, or who have had a new baby. It's just a nice big warm casserole to take, and it just gets better the more you heat it up," she said. "It's just one of those meals you sit down and just feel so blessed."

Arnsman also feels blessed with her husband Steve, their five children and 12 grandchildren who all like to be in the kitchen with her.

"That's a favorite thing at our house. They try to all crowd in there. We try to give everybody a job," Arnsman said. "It's chaos, but it's my kind of chaos."

Arnsman got an early start in the kitchen, cooking complete meals to serve the family by the age of 10 while her mom and older brother handled the farming chores.

"I've always liked it. It's never been a chore to me to cook," she said. "I would rather cook than go out and eat."

Arnsman learned a lot about cooking from watching her mom, but "mostly it was trial and error," she said. "Not every recipe is going to turn out like the picture. Don't set your expectations so high that your disappointment takes away your love of trying."

She taught her kids -- Daniel, Luke, Jessie, Josh and Caleb -- to cook, and now she cooks with the grandchildren.

"Icebox Cookies is one of my grandkids' favorites," she said. "You roll them in waxed paper, freeze them, get them out and slice them. They're a great make-ahead cookie."

Ham Rolls makes enough to serve a crowd, and so does Sloppy Joes for 50, the recipe Arnsman uses at school. Grandma Doris' Cheeseball with peppers, onions and pineapple "is fabulous on crackers," she said, and Sweet Fire "is a favorite of Steve's dad. It's different from a Chex mix."

The Arnsmans prefer pie to cake -- and her husband makes "a mean pumpkin pie" -- but she makes an exception for Rolled Oat Cake, a recipe from her childhood.

Although Arnsman didn't like oatmeal as a child, she liked the cake, which "never lasts long at anybody's house," she said. "It's very simple to put together. It is a very moist cake. It's a comfort cake."

SClBGrandma Doris' Cheeeball

2 (eight-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1 (8.5-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

1/3 cup pecans, chopped (optional)

1/4 cup chopped pepper

2 tablespoons chopped onions

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

Mix all together, and shape into a ball. If desired, roll ball in additional chopped pecans. Chill, then spread on crackers.

Blessing in a Bowl

2 packages chicken or turkey stuffing mix

2 cups noodles, cooked and drained

1 cup French cut green beans, undrained

1 (12.5-ounce) can chicken breast, drained

2 (12-ounce) jars chicken gravy

In a large pan, make stuffing as directed. Cook noodles, drain and add to stuffing along with green beans and chicken. Place in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Pour gravy over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes until bubbly.

Ham Rolls

4 pounds hamburger

teaspoon onion powder

teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon liquid smoke

3 tablespoons Morton's Curing Tenderizing Salt

teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

2 eggs

2 cups crushed graham crackers

2 cups water

1 cup milk

Mix together all ingredients, and refrigerate overnight. Shape into rolls, and place in a 9x13-inch baking dish.

2 cans tomato soup

cup vinegar

cup brown sugar

3 teaspoons dry mustard

Combine together for sauce. Add sauce to rolls several hours before baking. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil, and continue baking for 15 to 30 minutes.

Sloppy Joes for 50

10 pounds hamburger

2 (38-ounce) bottles catsup

2 cups brown sugar

4 tablespoons plus chili powder, or to taste

4 tablespoons prepared mustard, or to taste

Brown hamburger, and drain. Add catsup, brown sugar, chili powder and mustard. Heat thoroughly. Serve on buns.

Sweet Fire

6 cups Crispix cereal

1 (12-ounce) package cashews or mixed nuts

3 cups oyster crackers

2 cups pretzels

1 (15.5-ounce) bag Tostito chips

3/4 cup white syrup

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup butter

3 tablespoons chili powder

3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine Crispix, cashews or mixed nuts, oyster crackers, pretzels and chips.

In a saucepan, combine syrup, brown sugar, butter and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then pour over cereal mixture.

Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 250 degrees for one hour, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes.

Icebox Cookies

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

4 cups flour

1 cup melted butter

1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 teaspoon water

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine together melted butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix in remaining ingredients.

Wrap dough in waxed paper in rolls. Chill or freeze, then slice dough and bake at 350 degrees for eight minutes.

Rolled Oat Cake

1 cup quick cook oats

1 1/4 cups boiling water

1/2 cup oleo

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 1/3 cups flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix together oats and boiling water. Let stand to soften oats.

In a separate bowl, cream together oleo, sugars and eggs. Add flour, cinnamon and baking soda. Stir in oats.

Pour batter into an ungreased 9x13-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

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