ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JENNIFER PROFFITT
Joan Donahue has been cooking for more than a few decades. She enjoys it now, but it hasn’t always been that way.
“To tell you the truth,” Donahue said, “I grew up on a farm and I preferred being outside than being inside learning how to cook.
“I got married and it was because of my husband, that I started to cook and I enjoyed it.”
Married for 46 years to Jim, the Donahues have four adult children: Dudley, Tom, Debbie and Tim. They also have seven grandchildren.
With such a large family, it is no surprise that Donahue’s favorite pastime is cooking for her family.
“My big fun was doing family dinners,” Donahue said. “That was when I could try out new recipes.”
A standard dish at the family dinners was Donahue’s famous fried chicken, but she had some kinks to work out along the way.
Donahue said, “One of the first dishes I learned to make was fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, and the mashed potatoes didn’t even turn out that good.”
Once she perfected the dish, it soon became a family favorite.
“Everybody seems to like my fried chicken,” she said. “They kind of like to know when I’m doing it.”
Another staple Donahue prepared almost every Saturday night while her kids were growing up were bierrocks. They are still a family favorite, and Donahue makes big batches for the holidays and gives them as gifts.
Her bierrock recipe comes from Jim’s grandmother, Amelia Smith.
“Jim’s grandmother was a very good cook, so I learned a lot from her,” Donahue said.
She also credits her mother with teaching her how to cook.
“She did a lot of entertaining for relatives,” Donahue said. “I always assisted her in that, so maybe that’s where I got the desire to do family dinners. She enjoyed it and it was always fun to have your family and friends over.”
Entertaining family and friends has become a business for Donahue. She and her husband own and operate Clover Cliff Ranch, a bed-and-breakfast 35 miles east of Hillsboro.
Four houses set on the property. Half-way through remodeling the big house, they began to wonder what to do with it, because they knew they were not going to live there.
“My husband said, ‘Why don’t we make a bed-and-breakfast out of it?’ and I said, ‘Well, we don’t know anything about that.’ But that’s what we’re doing.
“I enjoy doing the breakfast because it’s interesting with all the guests you get,” she said. “You get them from all over, and you have the regulars that you become friends with. It’s very rewarding.”
The Donahues have run the bed and breakfast for the past six years.
Joan said: “I hope to keep doing what I’m doing as long as I can. I just enjoy making people happy by giving them good food,”
The southwestern egg casserole included below, is one of the guests’ favorites.
The holiday season is also rewarding for Donahue because she prepares a special holiday meal.
“A traditional holiday meal is roast duck, with potatoes around the duck, sweet and sour cabbage, and corn casserole,” she said.
The cabbage and corn recipes are included below.
One of the biggest challenges Donahue faces when cooking for such a large group is knowing how much to make and making sure it’s all done at the same time.
A word of advice Donahue offers to beginning cooks stems from her experience throughout the years.
“If it doesn’t come out right, don’t give up,” she said. “Just hang in there.”
Southwestern Egg Casserole
(Sandra Greaves, Yuma, Ariz.)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder 1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups (16 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups (16 ounces) cottage cheese 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 cans (4 ounces each) chopped green chilies
In a large bowl, beat eggs. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; stir into eggs (batter will be lumpy). Add cheeses, butter and chilies. Pour into a greased 13-inch by 9-inch by 2-inch baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand five minutes before cutting.
Yields 10-12 servings.
(“The more time I spend in the kitchen, the happier I am. These baked eggs with a true Southwestern flavor are perfect to serve when entertaining overnight guests.”)
Poppy Seed Potatoes
6 large potatoes
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 pint sour cream
1/2 cup light cream
1/8 cup poppy seed
4 green onions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Boil or steam potatoes until barely tender. Refrigerate until cold, then peel and grate coarsley, combine with remaining ingredients and place in a lightly buttered two-quart casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, covered. Uncover and bake 10 minutes longer.
1 quart cranberries (4 cups)
2 cups water
Cook until skins are broken. Rub through a sieve to make a smooth pulp.
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups cold water
Pour into freezing trays. Just before completely frozen, beat with beater and return to freezer. Freeze until firm.
Serves eight (one quart).
Sweet Sour Cabbage
8 cups shredded cabbage (I use red)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup vinegar
1 large onion chopped
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons shortening
Saute onion in the shortening until slightly golden. Add sugar, vinegar, salt and water. Blend well. Slowly add cabbage. Cover and cook over medium heat until cabbage is tender, about 20-25 minutes.
Baked Corn and Oysters
2 cans cream-style corn
1 can oysters, diced (can use smoked oysters)
2 eggs beaten
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
1 cup buttered cracker crumbs
Mix all the ingredients together except the crumbs, and place in a buttered casserole. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top, and bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes.