District Court Judge Joel Swanson has missed only two University of Iowa football games since 1959, and his wife, Mary, has accompanies him to many games when she can find time to get away from Mimi’s  women’s clothing store, which she owns in downtown Carroll.
District Court Judge Joel Swanson has missed only two University of Iowa football games since 1959, and his wife, Mary, has accompanies him to many games when she can find time to get away from Mimi’s  women’s clothing store, which she owns in downtown Carroll.
Monday, September 13, 2010

Dedicated is a fitting word to describe Joel and Mary Swanson of Carroll. Joel is an avid fan of Iowa Hawkeye football. He received both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Iowa and has an impressive record. He has missed only two home football games since 1959 and is often accompanied by Mary to the games in Iowa City. Mary, on the other hand, has been dedicated to her loyal customers of Mimi’s, her downtown shop specializing in women’s apparel, for 22 years.

Joel, a Carroll County District Court judge, and Mary enjoy doing many of the same things such as traveling, playing golf, entertaining friends and family, and of course, supporting the Hawks. Mary’s cooking motto is easy, “If you can read, you can cook.” She says she loves to cook and loves to entertain. She enjoys trying new recipes and doesn’t have a certain dish she makes for company. She prefers trying something new and hoping it works.  Mary says she likes trying new pasta dishes the most. Many of her recipes come from Junior League Cookbooks.

Mary and Joel also make a great team in the kitchen. Mary calls Joel her “back sink driver” or her sous chef. She says he is fantastic at dicing and chopping, calling him “pretty handy.” Mary prefers not to cook with prepackaged ingredients and likes to use foods she can buy locally. She likes to think her cooking has a little bit of flair, but understated.

The following recipes are so versatile they could be served at a dinner party or a casual Hawkeye tailgate.

Nutty Cheese Ball

A dear friend from Lake City gave this recipe to Mary, and it’s become a favorite appetizer for her to serve for company. Bleu cheese, Cheddar cheese, and cream cheese are combined to create a cheese spread with a bold taste. It goes well with any kind of cracker. Be sure to let sit at room temperature for thirty minutes before serving to company.

4 oz bleu cheese
6 oz. shredded Cheddar cheese
12 oz cream cheese
1 T. grated onion
1 tsp. chopped parsley
1/2 c. finely chopped nuts such as pecans, plus 1/4 c. more (reserved)
1/4 c. sherry
1/2 tsp. Worchestershire Sauce

Soften cheeses to room temperature.  Combine cheeses with onion, parsley, nuts, sherry and Worchestershire Sauce. Shape into ball and chill.  Roll ball in 1/4 c. nuts (nuts may be slightly toasted to improve flavor). Remove from refrigerator 1/2 hour before serving.  Serve with crackers.

Spicy Olive Tapenade

According to Mary, this tapenade is a great alternative to salsa. Tapenade is a spread originally stemming from Provence, France. It is typically made of olives and/or capers combined with olive oil and is considered a gourmet condiment. It has many uses as an hors d’oeuvre or as a garnish on a main dish. For variety and flavor, use an assortment of imported black and green olives.
This particular recipe was found in “Notably Nashville,” one of Mary’s favorite cookbooks, given to her as a gift by her sister, Ann Ledet, who recently moved from Nashville to Nazareth, Pa.

1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles
1 (4-ounce) can chopped black olives
1 (6-ounce) jar pimento-stuffed green olives chopped
4 green onions with tops, finely chopped
2 to 3 T. seeded and chopped jalapeno pepper
1 tomato (diced)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
garlic powder to taste

Drain the green chilles, black olives/green olives. Combine with the green onions, tomatoes, and jalapeno pepper in a bowl.

Combine the olive oil, vinegar and garlic powder in a small bowl and whisk to blend well. Add to the olive mixture and mix well.

Chill, covered, for 8 to 10 hours. Serve with corn chips scoops or tortilla chips.

Pressed Italian Sandwiches

Mary found this savory sandwich online. It can be cut into smaller pieces and served as an appetizer or more generous slices for lunch alongside soup or salad. The Spicy Olive Tapenade adds an interesting bite of flavor to this hearty sandwich served on Ciabatta bread. Ciabatta is an Italian bread that is somewhat broad and flat and is light and airy on the inside. It is also used to make Panini sandwiches.

1 Ciabatta loaf
1/2 c. olive tapenade (see above Spicy Olive Tapenade recipe)
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. olive oil
1/4 pound salami
1/4 pound sliced ham
1/2 pound sliced provolone cheese
1 roasted pepper, chopped
6 basil leaves, torn into bite size pieces
black pepper

Cut Ciabatta loaf in half lengthwise.  Spread bottom half of loaf with tapenade. Drizzle cut side of top half with vinegar and oil.

Arrange salami on top of tapenade, followed by cheese, ham, red pepper, and basil. Sprinkle with black pepper to taste and place top half of loaf on fillings. Wrap sandwich with plastic wrap. Place a heavy cutting board or other flat object on top of sandwich to weigh it down. Let sit 30 minutes to 2 hours in refrigerator. Unwrap and cut into slices.

Toffee Squares

These tasty bars are a true Greteman family vavorite. The recipe comes from Mary’s mother, Julie Greteman, of Carroll. Mary attributes her love of cooking and entertaining to her mom. These bars are made any time of year by the Greteman family and are enjoyed by all. It is a simple recipe with pleasing results.

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter (softened)
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
chocolate chips
chopped pecans

Combine first five ingredients. Pat into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Return to oven until chocolate chips are melted. Spread and sprinkle with chopped pecans. Enjoy!