Susan Bailey and her husband, Dave, have three children, Bobby, 11, Marian, 8, and Thomas, 5.
Susan Bailey and her husband, Dave, have three children, Bobby, 11, Marian, 8, and Thomas, 5.
Monday, April 25, 2011

JOHNSTON — The Bailey family of Johnston loves to explore new things. Susan (Schouten) Bailey and her family are not only adventurous in the kitchen, but they also enjoy exploring the outdoors.

Susan and her husband, Dave, have three children, Bobby, 11, Marian, 8, and Thomas, 5. Susan took a geocaching class for Girl Scout leader training and now the whole family is hooked.

Geocaching is a treasure hunting game played all over the world by adventure seekers using a GPS device following latitude and longitude coordinates. The geocacher hides a “cache” outside for others to find in this “high tech game of hide and seek.”

A typical cache is a small, waterproof container containing a logbook. Sometimes the boxes contain items for trading such as a small toy or trinket. The caches are logged on websites like

Dave gave Susan a GPS for her birthday last year and so far the family has found caches in six states. Whenever they go on a trip, they try to find a cache along the way. Once they found twelve caches in one day. The family is working towards the goal of finding a cache in all 99 Iowa counties. Currently, the family has one cache hidden and plans to hide several more. Susan says this family activity is a neat way to get everyone outside and leads to finding new picnic spots and ice cream shops along the way.

Susan, a 1992 Carroll High graduate, and Dave met at church retreat while attending college at Iowa State University. When they married in 1997, Susan’s mother, Karen Schouten, of Carroll, sent out recipe cards to family members. Karen compiled the recipes in a large binder and presented it to the couple as a wedding gift. Over the past several years, Susan has added many more recipes to the binder. Susan has a lot of cookbooks, but claims the best recipes are the ones in the binder.

The Baileys moved back to Iowa in 2007, after living in Minnesota for ten years. Dave works for John Deere Intelligent Solutions Group in Urbandale as an embedded software engineer. Susan is a full-time mom and recently began working part-time in the floral department at Hy-Vee in Johnston.

Her new job goes along with her Horticulture degree and allows her to get the kids off the school before work and be home with them after school. This gives the family plenty of time to plan activities and weekly menus. Susan also stays busy as PTO secretary at their children’s elementary school and she is also the Service Manager for the Johnston Girl Scouts.

Marian, 8, has followed in her mom’s footsteps and is active in the Girl Scout troop Susan leads. Susan also helps out with Bobby’s 4-H group from time to time.

Susan admits she is the primary cook and baker at their house, but Dave is in charge of grilling and puts together meals when Susan is busy with a school or Girl Scout function. Although Susan has been a stay at home mom until recently, she still likes to find time-saving tips to make meal preparation easier especially on evenings when the one of the kids has an activity.

To save time, Susan buys ten pounds of hamburger at a time and browns it in batches and stores it in one to two pound batches in freezer bags in the freezer. She says this is a great way to cut down on cooking time on a busy night. She does the same with chicken breasts. She marinates and grills the chicken several pounds at a time. She then uses the chicken for stir fry, soup, and casseroles and uses it to top pizza and salads.

Susan isn’t afraid to try new things. She doesn’t care if she is holding the knife the right way or is cutting something correctly, but is willing to experiment and try something new. She admits she has made some real “clunkers” that didn’t make the binder, but she has also found ways to spruce up a “ho-hum meal.”

Susan also describes herself as a lazy cook. She doesn’t mind making fancy dishes and desserts, but is always happy to find ways to cut corners whenever possible.

Susan admits she prefers to cook meals that are “fairly quick and easy to prepare, but look like you put a lot more time and effort into it.”

Susan’s meals usually include a variety of things like casseroles or lasagna — meals that can be made in double batches and frozen for use down the road. When Susan and Dave’s children were younger, Susan took it upon herself to meal plan a month at a time. She would cross out days they would be out of town or too busy to prepare a real meal at home. She would also eliminate special days like birthdays. Susan found this made things run much more smoothly.

Susan says she likes to cook, but loves to bake. She always signs up to donate baked goods for activities at school because it gives her the opportunity to try new recipes. She says it’s a bit disappointing when others purchase baked goods from the grocery store rather than baking it at home. Susan recommends cooking and baking to others since she finds, “Being in the kitchen is fun and a great place for my creative outlet.” She is also teaching their children about cooking and meal planning.

The Bailey kids like to help out at dinner time. They set the table and help Susan select the side dishes. Susan serves a lot of fruit and steamed veggies with meals. Her kids have learned quite a bit about nutrition at school and are sure to let their parents know if there is not a “balanced” meal on the table. The family has also been trying to incorporate more whole grain into their meals. The kids also like to read and compare food labels to help make the healthiest choices.

All three kids enjoy leafing through cookbooks and picking recipes that appeal to them. Susan says Marian, 9, is notorious for checking out cookbooks from the school library and asking to try the new recipes at home.
Bobby, 11, has learned to bake on his own and enjoys baking for his 4-H projects. Bobby also enjoys growing vegetables to show for 4-H. Last year he grew jalapenos. The whole family pitches in tending to the family garden. The kids like to pick the varieties, plant the seeds, water the garden, and harvest the veggies. One of the kids’ favorites is fresh salsa made of chopped tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cilantro straight from the garden.

Armenian Lentil Stew

Susan says she encourages her three children to try new things. Sometimes she is pleasantly surprised by what they like such as this lentil stew. The recipe came from a “make and take” type place in Minnesota where friends gather to make a dozen or so meals at once to bring home to eat later. Susan and her friends went there for a Mom’s Night Out. One of her friends, Jennifer Harveland, used her amazing memory to remember all the ingredients in this soup. Susan describes the smell of it simmering away as “divine” and says her kids “gobble it up.”

2 T olive oil
1/2 cup onion
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1 T minced garlic
2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed
1 1/2 cups butternut squash, cubed
1/2 cup undrained diced tomatoes
½ cup diced cooked ham
5 cups chicken stock
2 T soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon coriander
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Saute onions and apricots until tender. Add garlic and saute an additional 2-3 minutes. Add lentils, squash, tomatoes, ham, stock, soy sauce and spices to pan; stir well. Partially cover and simmer about 40 minutes or until lentils and squash are very tender. Mix with stick blender or potato masher to achieve a smooth consistency. Serve topped with plain yogurt or sour cream and fresh cilantro.

Sandwich Loaf

This recipe was given to Susan by her mother-in-law, Mary Bailey, of Davenport. This is the original recipe, but Susan says the combination of meat and cheese can be whatever you want. The Baileys like ham, Colby cheese, and spicy brown mustard. Susan began substituting some whole wheat flour in place of the white flour and adding herbs and seeds to the dough. It doesn’t take long to make and can be prepared ahead of time, frozen, and then reheated.

3 ¼ cup flour - divided
1 T sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package yeast
1 cup hot water
1 T butter, softened
¼ cup Thousand Island dressing
6 oz thinly sliced corned beef
¼ pound sliced Swiss cheese
1 8 oz can sauerkraut, well drained
1 egg white
Set aside one cup of flour. In a large bowl, mix remaining flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Stir in hot water and butter. Mix in only enough reserved flour to create a soft dough. Knead for four minutes. On a greased baking sheet, roll dough into a 10x14” rectangle. Spread dressing down the middle of the dough and top with meat, cheese and sauerkraut. Cut 1” strips from sides of filling out to the edge of the dough along the length. Alternating sides, fold the strips in at an angle across the filling as if making a braid. Cover and let rise, about 20-30 minutes. Brush with egg white. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden. Slice crosswise to serve.

Pasta with Shrimp

This recipe is from Susan’s dear friends, Bob and Gerry Dunlap, who “adopted” Susan while she completed her college internship in Georgia. Susan describes Gerry as a “fabulous cook” who taught her several kitchen tips that summer. If Susan is in a hurry, she will use thawed, precooked shrimp and add them along with the chiles.

1 pound uncooked linguine pasta
½ cup olive oil
1 ½ pounds raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 4 oz can diced green chiles
dash garlic powder, to taste
dried red chili flakes, to taste
chopped fresh parsley
grated Parmesan cheese

Boil water for pasta and prepare according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a deep frying pan or wok, heat oil on medium high heat. Add raw shrimp and garlic, tossing frequently – do not allow garlic to burn. When shrimp appear cooked and turn pink (it does not take long, only a couple of minutes), add green chiles and garlic powder. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Toss pasta with shrimp in pan. Top with chopped parsley and shredded Parmesan cheese. Makes six generous servings.

Parmesan Chicken

Susan’s sister-in-law, Shelby Railsback, of Ft. Collins, Colorado, had a baby girl last summer and one of Shelby’s friends brought her this dish. According to Susan, the recipe became an “instant hit” in both households. It can be prepared using whole chicken breasts or by cutting the chicken into strips or nuggets, which reduces the cooking time.
In a resealable bag, combine:

3 T Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Add six 5 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Allow to marinate at least 30 minutes, up to overnight. In a shallow bowl combine 1 ¼c up Panko breadcrumbs (flaky, crunchy Japanese breadcrumbs) and ¾ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 1 ½ oz if you grate it yourself), 1 Tablespoon of melted butter and ¼ tsp of pepper.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Press marinated chicken breasts firmly into the breadcrumb mixture so that crumbs stick well to chicken. Place on baking sheet. Spoon remaining crumb mixture onto chicken and press down. Bake until crumbs are golden and chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Pizza Spaghetti

This recipe came from Susan’s friend, Barb Dettinger. It was in a cookbook compiled by a parents group as a fundraiser. It is a quick dish that is popular among the younger crowd.

1 16oz package whole wheat spaghetti
2 eggs
½ cup milk
4 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
32 oz spaghetti sauce
1 ½ teaspoon oregano
3 oz sliced turkey pepperoni
In a large pot cook pasta according to package directions; drain and cool slightly. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, beat eggs lightly. Stir in milk, one cup of cheese, garlic powder and salt. Add cooked pasta and stir until combined. Grease a 10x15”pan and spread the spaghetti mixture evenly in the pan. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 350 degrees. Spread spaghetti sauce over the spaghetti. Sprinkle with oregano and top with remaining cheese. Place pepperoni slices in a layer over the cheese. Return to oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Bobby’s Blue Ribbon Ginger Shortbread
For Bobby’s 4-H project, he wanted to bake something and found this recipe, but said he wanted to “make it more interesting.” Bobby (named after Susan’s late father, Robert Schouten, who passed away in 1998) perfected the recipe by adding ginger and the whole family was more than happy to be Bobby’s “official taster testers.”

1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 T cornstarch

1 T ground ginger
1/4 cup plus
1 T sugar, divided

1/2 cup chilled butter cut into pieces 

2 T diced candied ginger

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, ground ginger, and 1/4 cup of sugar. Add butter to bowl and combine with a pastry blender until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in ginger pieces. Press mixture into an even layer in a 9” round cake pan. With the tines of a fork, make an impression around the edge of the pan, then prick the surface of the dough with the fork tines. Bake at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and while still hot cut into 8-12 pie wedges. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Allow to cool and remove from pan. Store in an airtight container.