Marshalltown couple loves to try new foods

Contributed photos Ken and Cathy Vergauwen love to cook together.

Ken and Cathy Vergauwen are known for being adventurous cooks. While they love working together in the kitchen, different experiences inspired their passion for cooking.

“I got into cooking early on,” Ken said. Growing up he watched his grandmother cook in her own restaurant.

As an adult, Ken worked in the food industry for many years.

“I worked in a restaurant for over 20 something years,” he said

Ken also worked at the Marshalltown Hy-Vee for five years in catering and the Regency Inn as executive chef.

Cathy began cooking because she loves to experiment with recipes and see what people like.

“I kind of did it on my own,” she said. “I see it as chemistry you can eat.”

The couple, who has been married for 30 years, love to try new foods and put a creative spin on recipes.t

Their most recent adventure was roasting a leg of lamb for Memorial Day, but they have also experimented with falafel sandwiches and making angel food cake from scratch.

Ken and Cathy also love to try out different country’s cuisines. They said they have tried Japanese, Chinese, Italian, German, Mexican and many others.

Cathy noted that cooking is a great way to discover other countries and see if you would like to visit.

Despite the many different kinds of food they have tried over the years, they say their specialties are classic comfort foods. Cathy said her mac and cheese is a big hit, while Ken is known for his beer cheese soup.

After making the soup for his and Cathy’s wedding, his relatives make him cook it for them at every reunion.

The pair catered their own wedding for around 100 people. They said by planning the menu a few weeks in advance, everything went smoothly.

It was a little more of a challenge when they catered for a relative’s 200-person wedding last summer. But, as always, they were able to use their creativity to please everyone.

For the event, they made 80 pounds of pork, their own barbecue sauce, gluten free cookies, cake and cupcakes.

Despite some stressful cooking situations, Ken and Cathy said they love to be in the kitchen because it is relaxing.

Ken said cooking is a fun thing for them to do together.

“It helps us spend more time together,” he said.

Cathy echoed this sentiment, saying they help each other figure out how to take on new cooking skills.

“We kind of work in tangent with each other and help each other out when we come up with a new project,” she said.

Cathy also mentioned that she collects cook books, with around 250 at the moment, which she loves to flip through for new ideas.

They have passed on their adventurous spirit to their children, who now love to try new foods on their own. Ken attributes this to encouraging their children try two bites of everything they made.

The Vergauwens have some advice for picky eaters. They said everyone should try a food item prepared a couple different ways before deciding it is not for them.

“Don’t be afraid to try new things,” Ken said.

Beer Cheese Soup

10 cans of condensed cheddar cheese sauce

1.5 pound ham steak diced

3 large onions chopped

1 gallon milk

1 gallon water

10 celery stalks chopped

2 tablespoon garlic salt

2 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 16 ounce can of beer any kind works

In a large 3 gallon or large pot put in the cheddar cheeses sauce milk and water. Bring to a boil then add the onions, celery, garlic salt, onion powder, salt and pepper cook for about 10 minutes on a simmer. Add the ham and cook for about 30 minutes at a good simmer. Taste and add salt or pepper to taste.  Add the beer and let simmer and cook for another 20 minutes. Soup will be slightly thick. Serve right away or can be made couple days ahead and warmed up as is just as good reheated.

 Mac And Cheese

Noodle Prep

Elbow noodle (4 cups uncooked)

Cook in salted boiling water until all done.

Bacon 12 ounces Diced

1 onion, diced

Cook bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels. Keep about 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in pan and saute onion until tender. Season with salt and pepper and then set aside.

Cheese Sauce

2 cups whipping cream

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar

1 6 ounce block Gruyere cheese shredded

Velveeta cheese 2 ounces. Cut up

1 teaspoon mustard powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat whipping cream on medium heat until starts to bubble. Add Velveeta cheese and stir until almost melted completely. Then add in cheddar and Gruyere cheese in small batches until everything is well mixed together and melted. Heat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray or butter well. Put half the noodles in the pan and then half of the cheese sauce and all of the bacon and onions. Put the rest of the noodles and the rest of the sauce into the pan and bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes. Take pan out about half way through and stir everything together, then put bake in oven to continue baking and stir again once all done baking.



2 cans sweetened condensed milk

1 can evaporated milk (12 oz.)

1 can fresh milk (use can above)

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sprinkle top with cinnamon when done


Preheat oven to 350-375 degrees. Burn 2/3 cup of white sugar a light brown color on low heat. Once done pour sugar into an 11×7 pan, that is coated in cooking spray. Spread the sugar out as you pour it into the base of the pan. Do not cover sides. Mix all custard ingredients together with blender on high speed for 2-3 minutes. Once done mixing pour custard into pan. Then put the 11×7 pan inside of a 9×13 pan and add 1.5 cups of water to the 13×9 pan. This will help the custard cook evenly. Sprinkle cinnamon on top and then put the pans in the over to cook for 50-60 minutes. To test if done, use a knife and poke it into the center of the pan, and if it comes out clean then the custard is done. Let the custard cool in the refrigerator over night, which will help make it smooth and delicious.


Contact Anna Shearer at



Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)