The Rev. Amy Beitelschees-Albers is a hands-on woman.
Beitelschees-Albers, 54, is a minister at Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Harlan, a mental health therapist and runs the The Big Red Barn in St. Joe. She and her business partner, Linda Eager, run the shop, which specializes in natural-fiber yarn and handcrafted items by local artisans.
“The location of The Big Red Barn was where Mr. Sechler of Sechler’s Pickles lived. We redid the whole barn, gutted it and redid the (business area). The rest is a working barn with the chickens, alpacas, cats and dogs,” she explains.
Beitelschees-Albers says the fleece from the alpacas is cleaned, spun and used in finished knitted products. The shop offers other types of yarns and conducts classes for knitting, crocheting, spinning and felting.
But Beitelschees-Albers also finds pleasure in working her garden.
“I grow a lot of my own stuff so I know where it comes from. A little bit here and a little bit there,” she says. “I love working creation, being just outside.”
Beitelschees-Albers likes to use the vegetables from her garden, including herbs, to prepare healthy meals, whereas she says her husband, Harry, is happy as a “meat and potatoes guy.”
“My husband is a simple eater. He’s lost 70 pounds. He does not eat sweets. And if I bake something for my birthday, this (butterscotch pie) is the pie I bake. I don’t do that often,” she says.
Q. What vegetable do you eat most often?
A. That’s hard to say. Whatever’s in my refrigerator. Right now, it’s corn, tomatoes and beets. I do not like sugar in my vegetables. Do not put marshmallows in my sweet potatoes and call it a vegetable. If I want that, I’ll make a sweet potato pie. It’s dessert.
Q. Who would you say is your cooking idol?
A. My mom, the late Lindy Beitelschees, and her mother, the late Mildred Williams. We used to call her “Monner.” Grandfather was “Pup.” Our family would get together and can tomatoes, salsa and later sauerkraut. My grandfather had a big garden, and we had a big garden.
We had salad with almost every meal. My mother was an amateur gourmet before Food Network existed. We all learned to cook. I learned cooking and hospitality from my mother and grandmother. Back during the Depression, if you had a sandwich, you gave half to the hobo.
Q. What’s your favorite cooking utensil?
A. Probably my knife so I can cut up stuff. No! Wooden spoons. My family teases me about that. I have lots of them, 15. All shapes and sizes.
Q. What one word describes your cooking style?
A. Eclectic? I don’t know. I’m a preacher, I can’t do one word! I hate the word “natural” because it’s so overused now, but no chemicals, local, seasonal and with gratitude.
1 cup brown sugar ( 1/2 pound)
4 rounded tablespoons flour ( 3/4 cup for double batch)
1 cup evaporated milk
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons butter (not margarine)
1 (9-inch) prepared shortbread or graham cracker pie crust
Mix sugar and flour. Mix in milk. Cook until thickens, stirring constantly. Beat egg yolks and add to mixture. Cook until eggs are cooked through. Add vanilla and butter. This can be done in the microwave; check in 30 second increments. If making filling for a pie, you must double the recipe. Pour filling into pie shell and refrigerate. Makes 8 to 10 servings. Note: Can be sensitive to humidity.
6 medium turnips, peeled and chunked
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup grated cheese, such as extra sharp cheddar cheese
2 eggs, separated and beaten
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Boil turnips in salted water. Drain and mash. Add butter, milk, cheese and beaten yolks. Season to taste. Mix thoroughly and fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Pile lightly into well-greased 2- to 3-quart baking dish. Set in pan of warm water. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes or until knife comes out clean. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
1/2 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 heaping teaspoons cinnamon
Cream shortening and sugar; add vanilla. Beat eggs well. Sift dry ingredients together and add to the creamed mixture alternately with eggs. Chill for 1 hour. Mold with cookie press or drop from teaspoon and flatten with damp towel-covered glass. Place parchment paper on cookie sheets or grease cookie sheet. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 7 minutes. Makes 60 small cookies.
1 large eggplant and/or zucchini
Any combination of the following:
1 bell pepper (any color)
Sliced mushrooms, as desired
2 to 3 cloves chopped garlic
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Thyme, to taste
Rosemary, to taste
Oregano, to taste
Basil, to taste
Parsley, to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup bread cubes
1 to 2 cups shredded cheese such as parmesan, Swiss, mozzarella, cheddar
Wash a large zucchini or eggplant and slice in half long-ways. Place in a greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish or cookie sheet with higher sides. Put a little water in the bottom and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until just fork-tender. Let cool enough to handle. Remove seeds if desired. Scoop out flesh and cube it, leaving 1/4 to 1/2 -inch of skin and flesh. Set aside.
In a skillet, sauté in olive oil the combination of veggies, salt, pepper and herb, leaving them a little crunchy. Add the zucchini/eggplant to the veggie mixture. Cook a few more minutes. Add bread cubes and stuff the mixture back in the shell of the zucchini/eggplant, mounding it. Cover with your favorite cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese is meted and begins to brown. Let set for a few minutes, slice and serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Note: Can be served as a side or main dish. Cooked hamburger, sausage or chorizo can be added to mixture before stuffing. You can also use one each of zucchini and eggplant and combine when sautéing.