Paraeducator spreads love through cooking

CONTRIBUTRED PHOTOS Jen Koehler, paraeducator with the Marshalltown Community School District, enjoys making food for her loved ones. A friend of Koehler’s posted a picture on Facebook of the delicious meal Koehler made for her.

Jen Koehler enjoys making food for her loved ones. A paraeducator in special education for the Marshalltown Community School District and a before and after school teacher at Bobcat Academy, she makes time to create home-cooked meals in her busy schedule.

Koehler said she has been cooking all her life.

“I started cooking very young! My visits to grandma’s house were usually spent in the kitchen.” she said.

As Koehler began to make her own creations, she found she had an affinity for desserts and entrees alike.

“I love making homemade pie and homemade casseroles! When I taught in Nebraska, my coworkers always looked forward to Fridays because I always brought in a special treat!’ she said. “They always said their favorite was my homemade pizza.” 

Koehler still spoils the people in her life with her delicious food.

She said she enjoys cooking because it is something she can do for others.

“It brings me great joy, especially when I am cooking for someone else,” Koehler said.

While her creations are usually a big hit, Koehler said she has had some mishaps over the years.

One of her biggest kitchen disasters was baking a dessert that did not turn out quite as planned.

“Once I grabbed salt instead of sugar. That pie was interesting!” Koehler said.

She keeps her food homemade and healthy by doing her own canning of produce and meat.

“We have canned a lot of our vegetables as well as beef and deer! It is so handy to have access to anytime,” Koehler said. “There is nothing better than homemade. Especially during this time and not knowing what may happen, it is nice to have this stuff available.”

While many grocery items have been in short supply during the pandemic, Koehler has been able to depend on ingredients from her own garden. 

White Pizza Dip

Serves about 6-8

1 pint grape tomatoes cut in half

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1  teaspoon pepper

1 12-ounce block cream cheese, softened

8 ounces freshly grated mozzarella

8 ounces freshly grated provolone

1 cup finely grated parmesan and some for garnish

4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

1 cup freshly chopped basil leaves

2 tablespoons freshly chopped thyme leaves

1 tablespoon freshly chopped oregano leaves

Crackers, bread or chips for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with olive oil and salt, then roast for 20-25 minutes until bursting. Set aside. While tomatoes are roasting, mix softened cream cheese with about 7 ounces each of provolone and mozzarella, then add parmesan. Stir in fresh herbs, garlic and roasted tomatoes, mixing well to combine. Transfer mixture to an oven-safe baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining provolone and mozzarella. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until top is golden and bubbly. Serve immediately with crackers, chips or bread.

Cheesy Hash Brown Soup

1 package frozen hash browns

1 can Campbell’s cheddar soup

1 block of Velveeta cheese

Diced ham

1 carton of half and half

Milk – add as needed for desired thickness

Chopped green onion and Nature’s seasoning to taste.

Put soup, Velveeta and half and half in a pan. Melt the mixture. Add hash browns and ham. Add milk to desired thickness. Heat and do not boil. Add onion and Nature’s seasoning to taste.

Contact Anna Shearer at ashearer@timesrepublican.com.


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