Iowa girl develops taste for Southern dishes
Monday, June 13, 2011
Suzanne (Knutsen) DuBois (front, right), a 1992 Carroll High School graduate from Lidderdale, now lives in Dry Prong, La., with (front, from left) husband, Scott, and son Chris, 15; (back, from left) daughter, Kayla, 13, and son Kyle, 11.
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Suzanne (Knutsen) DuBois, a 1992 Carroll High School graduate, met her husband, Scott, when she was a college student. Suzanne, daughter of Ken and Pat Knutsen of Lidderdale, and Scott, originally from Louisiana, lived in the same dormitory at Morningside College in Sioux City.
Suzanne was drawn to Scott’s Southern accent and loved to listen to him talk. The couple married and moved to Louisiana for a short time, but Suzanne had never been that far from her family, so they moved back to the Midwest and lived in Iowa Falls for several years. Four years ago, Scott and Suzanne decided to move to the South once again and have been in Dry Prong, a small town in central Louisiana, for four years.
Scott and Suzanne celebrated their 14th wedding anniversary on June 7 and have three children — Chris, 15, Kayla, 13, and Kyle, 11. Scott is a civics and free enterprise teacher and head football coach at Grant High School. Suzanne just graduated from Northwestern State University in May with a bachelor’s degree in arts and communication and works from home for a marketing firm, YellowZip.com, based in Houston, Texas.
When Scott and Suzanne first married, Scott did the majority of the cooking since Suzanne didn’t know how to make many of the foods he liked. She knew only how to make the basics such as hamburgers, tacos, fried chicken, etc. Suzanne says she used to be a picky eater but has learned to try new things since marrying a Southerner. She describes Cajun cooking as having a lot more variety.
Growing up in Iowa, Suzanne was raised on meals of meat and potatoes and simple side dishes but has found Louisiana-style cooking consists of a larger variety of foods. For example, beans other than green beans are often on the table — butter beans, pinto beans, purple hull beans, and black-eyed peas are served alongside local meats like fish, crawfish, shrimp, crab, deer, alligator, wild turkey, and sometimes squirrel.
Scott and Suzanne have started a tradition with their three children. Each spring, they take them to the Gulf of Mexico to go crabbing. They tie raw turkey necks to a string and toss them into the canals that run along the highways. They usually catch a cooler or two of crabs and bring them home for a crab boil the next day.
Cooking for a big family is a way of life for Scott’s family, but Scott doesn’t necessarily describe their style of cooking as Cajun, but more like “backwoods country.” In the past, family get-togethers were full of lots of good food at the home of Scott’s grandparents, Louis and Ima DuBois, better known as “PawPaw” and “MawMaw.” However, the family has now outgrown the space. His grandparents had a long table in their kitchen with a bench on one side. The smaller children piled up on the bench, and everyone else grabbed a seat where they could. The table, two stove tops, and the counter tops were all covered with homemade dishes like chicken and dumplings, cornbread dressing, greens, and peach cobbler.
When asked which Iowa food Suzanne misses the most, she had two words — “sweet corn.” She explains the soil in Louisiana is much different than in Iowa so the flavor of the corn doesn’t taste the same. In the spring when the fields are plowed, the soil is brown, not black like in Iowa, since it’s full of clay and sand. Luckily Suzanne and her family make a trip to Iowa each summer so she has a chance to eat sweet corn once a year.
Although Suzanne misses Iowa sweet corn, she welcomes the availability of fresh seafood. She explains the closer to New Orleans or Lake Charles, the more fresh shrimp and crab are sold in the grocery stores. Also there are local crawfish places all over Louisiana to buy fresh boiled crawfish to take home and eat, or you can buy live crawfish to take home to prepare yourself.
The DuBoises second move to Louisiana has turned out well. The majority of Scott’s family lives in Louisiana, and there are plenty of relatives around with whom to go camping and hunting. Scott’s family rents a piece of land, and everyone pulls a camper to the site. After hunting, the family sits around the campfire and tells stories. At a DuBois family gathering, conversations can range from hunting to sports, and according to Suzanne, it can get pretty loud. Scott and his cousins are extremely competitive, so there are plenty of stories to tell and topics to be debated.
Suzanne’s family of five also enjoys playing games like Catch Phrase, Taboo, and Ladder Bag and traveling to Shreveport, especially during the holiday shopping season. They love to go to the Boardwalk, a huge shopping center. Suzanne says she loves to be able to Christmas shop in short sleeves, something she definitely can’t do in Iowa.
Frozen Peach Cheesecake
Suzanne’s families in Iowa and Louisiana love this cheesecake. Suzanne describes it as cool and refreshing on a hot summer day and it also makes it feel a bit like summertime in the middle of winter. Suzanne says if you’re not a fan of peaches, pureed strawberries also work well.
1/3 c butter, melted
1 1/4 c graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c sugar
Mix the butter, graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a small bowl. Press into the bottom of a 10 inch Springform pan. (If you don’t have a Springform pan, 2 standard pie pans will be needed, or a standard cake pan. Additional crust may be needed when using other pans).
16 oz cream cheese, softened
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 - 2 teaspoons almond extract
3 c pureed peaches (canned, with syrup drained off)
8 oz whipped topping
Beat the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl until fluffy. Add the condensed milk; beat until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice, almond extract and peach puree. Fold in the whipped topping. Pour into the prepared Springform pan. Cover and freeze, until firm. Transfer to the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with peach slices.
Grandma’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
Everyone loves a chocolate chip cookie and Suzanne’s family is no exception. This recipe was handed down from Suzanne’s late grandmother, LaVonne Christensen, of Audubon, to Suzanne’s mother, Pat Knutsen, of Lidderdale, to Suzanne, and now Suzanne is teaching her three children how to make it since they also enjoy baking. The recipe makes a large batch of cookies, which was necessary for her grandmother who had eight children. Suzanne says she doesn’t really know how many cookies it makes because in her house, a plate of warm cookies disappear just as quickly as they are baked.
4 sticks of margarine
1 1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 c brown sugar
Blend until smooth.
2 teaspoons of vanilla
Again, blend until smooth.
Add 1 teaspoon of salt
2 Tablespoons of baking soda
5-6 cups of flour (one cup at a time)
Mix until just combined. The 6th cup of flour may need to be folded in by hand or may not be necessary if the dough is dry enough after 5 cups.
Stir in your favorite flavor of chocolate chips. Our favorite kind is the white chocolate chips and butterscotch chips, so we divide the dough and make some of each. Bake at 325 degrees for 10-12 minutes until slightly golden brown.
Southern Style Buttermilk Biscuits
Suzanne was taught how to make these biscuits by a biscuit pro, Scott’s grandmother, “MawMaw,” Ima DuBois, of Montgomery, Louisiana. Ima never measures the ingredients, she just “knows” what the dough is supposed to look and feel like by mixing it with her hands. She preheats the oven to 450 degrees and puts a bit of shortening to melt in a cast iron skillet in the oven. Then she starts by sifting the flour into the bowl and making a large well in the middle of the flour, but not all the way to the bottom. She combines the shortening with water in a coffee cup and mixes it with her fingers, breaking up the shortening before adding it to the flour. She creates a ball of dough in the center of the bowl until it’s mixed to her satisfaction. After that she pours buttermilk over the dough while working it with her other hand. When the dough is ready, she pinches off enough dough for one biscuit and expertly shapes it in her hands and carefully places it in the skillet, covering it with the melted shortening. She repeats the process and bakes them until they are golden on all sides. Suzanne describes these biscuits as absolutely wonderful. She also adds they can be mixed with a fork almost just as well.
1/3 c hot water
2-3 Tablespoons shortening
Incorporate water and shortening into a small amount of flour, then gradually add buttermilk and more flour until desired amount of dough is reached. Shape into spheres or roll out and cut. Place in pre-greased baking pan with biscuits touching one another. Bake at 450 degrees until golden brown.
When Louisiana comes to mind, so does jambalaya. Jambalaya is a dish of Spanish and French influence. Usually it’s a dish that takes a while to make and involves a lot of different spices and ingredients. This is Suzanne’s mother-in-law’s recipe and it’s a simpler way to make a tasty meal. Her mother-in-law, Vicki DuBois, of Shreveport, La., has used this recipe on countless occasions such as office parties, family gatherings, and even weddings. Suzanne admits she was a former picky eater and it’s taken her a long time to get used to the combination and intensity of flavors and smells in Cajun cooking.
3 boxes jambalaya mix (like Tony Chachere’s brand)
2 (14 oz) cans tomatoes with chilies
1 (4 oz) can of mushrooms, drained (optional)
1 c green onion tops
Cajun spice, to taste — start with at least 2 tablespoons (Tony Chachere’s brand)
3 lbs of meat — your choice — typically chunked chicken, sliced smoked sausage and chunked beef
Cook all meats in a large stock pot and drain. Add tomatoes with chilies, mushrooms, green onions, and water (according to box directions) and mix all together. Bring to a boil. Turn to simmer and cover. Simmer for 25-30 minutes until rice is done and liquid is gone.
NOTE: Do not lift lid on pot for at least 25 minutes. This allows the rice time to tenderize throughout.