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From meat loaf to cakes, this cook does it all

A decadent chocolate and peanut butter bundt cake.

Baking and working with bread dough is something Francine Miller Cox of rural Tama particularly enjoys.

She believes her propensity of working with dough comes from her time spent working as a cook at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo. Even though Miller Cox now works at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown in the laundry department, she has not given up her desire to cook, nor her talent for it.

When asked which dishes of hers make people excited, she said her baked goods.

“I just made some cereal pecan rolls and took them to work. They were a big hit,” Miller Cox said.

Whether she is baking up gelatin cakes, wedding cookies, cream puffs, cakes for graduations, bridal showers or birthdays, she is putting the oven to good use. Miller Cox also use the stove, as well.

Miller Cox made the bridal shower cakes for her niece

Her love of baking led to one of her biggest kitchen disasters.

It was the week of Thanksgiving at the Iowa Juvenile Home and Miller Cox made the filling for the abundance of pumpkin pies. The meal was sent to the cottages and the kitchen staff began getting reports the food was wonderful. Then they heard the pies had no sugar.

“I made 24 pies without sugar,” she said. “They turned out great and looked like pie but there was no sweetness. I hope they used extra whipped topping.”

She said one woman is a particular fan of her Indian tacos, which feature all of the standard taco fixings served on a piece of golden-brown fry bread.

Miller Cox is also frequently asked to make sheet cake brownies, meat loaf and piroshkis which are balls of dough with stuffing. Miller Cox likes to put taco meat, salsa and shredded cheese in her piroshkis.

Individual cheesecakes

Her meat loaf is also stuffed with cheese. She finishes it off by wrapping it in bacon.

With the wide variety of fare made by Miller Cox, people would think baking and cooking was something she had been doing most of her life, but that is not the case.

“I don’t remember doing it much at home growing up,” she said. “I got my first job at the American Legion when I was 14 or 15 and I have been around food service several years. Just by doing it at work I found that I enjoy it.”

Miller Cox said people also like her potato salad.

“But it’s just a basic potato salad with more eggs, onions,” she said. “I don’t know why mine is better, but my sister-in-law’s father likes it. I always take potato salad to the parties.”

Miller Cox might not have been cooking and baking all of her life, but she does have tips for people hoping to learn how to navigate a kitchen.

“Double and triple look at recipes to make sure you have ingredients,” she said. “Just enjoy what you are doing. Some people think cooking is so hard. It just takes time. Love what you do and make it fun.”

Frosted Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

1 cup sour cream, room temperature

1 cup butter, softened

2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

5 1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Frosting

6 tablespoons soft butter

4 1/2 to 4 3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup milk

1 1/2 teaspoons clear vanilla

Cream sour cream and butter together. Add sugar, eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. If baking cut out cookies, chill for one hour beforehand. If doing scoops, they can be done right away. After scooping, press down with the bottom of a glass that has been floured. Bake at 350 degrees for nine minutes. Do not over bake for a soft cookie.

For frosting: beat the butter until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. More milk may need to be added, to achieve the desired thickness.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 small onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed or minced

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4-ounce can green chiles

1 large box chicken broth

2 cans cream of chicken soup

1 1/2 pound cubed chicken

1 cup water

2 teaspoons Worcestershire

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili power, can add more if desired

12 ounces Velveeta cheese

Crispy tortilla strips

Shredded

Sauté onions and garlic in oil. Add all other ingredients except tortilla strips and shredded cheese. Let cook until Velveeta is melted. Simmer until ready to eat and then top with tortilla strips and shredded cheese.

Corn Salad

6 cans corn, drained

1 each of green, red and yellow bell peppers

1 red onion

1 1/2 to 2 cups mayonnaise

2 cups shredded Colby jack and Monterey jack cheeses

1 bag crushed Chili Cheese Fritos

Drain corn well. Dice peppers and onions and add to corn. Add mayonnaise and cheeses. Mix well and chill. Stir in crushed Fritos when ready to serve. Cut recipe in half for a smaller group.

Caramel Pecan Rolls

1 cup soft butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs

3 envelopes or 6 3/4 teaspoons yeast

7 1/2 to 8 cups flour

2 1/4 cups very warm water

9 tablespoons melted butter

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon

Caramel sauce:

2 cups butter

2 cups brown sugar

3/4 cup light corn syrup

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups chopped pecans

Mix soft butter, sugar and salt in mixing bowl. In another bowl, combine 4 cups flour and yeast. Mix well and add to butter mixture. Add the hot water and mix. Add eggs and mix well. Add remaining flour 1 cup at a time. Mix until dough is smooth. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth. Cover and let stand 10 minutes. In sauce pan, add butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and vanilla. Cook until smooth. Spray three 9×13 cake pans. Divide the caramel sauce between the three pans. Place 1 cup of pecans into each pan. In another bowl, combine 1 cup sugar and cinnamon. Mix well. Divide the dough into three portions. Roll out each portion into a rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Spread 3 tablespoons melted butter and 3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar over dough. Roll up and pinch together. Cut into 12 slices and place in pan. Cover pan with towel and let ruse until double in size. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and then turn over onto a cookie sheet.

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