Jen Arkland, husband, Jerry, daughter, Amber, 5, son, Javid, 6. The photo was taken this year on a family trip to California.
Jen Arkland, husband, Jerry, daughter, Amber, 5, son, Javid, 6. The photo was taken this year on a family trip to California.
Monday, June 27, 2011

Jen (Kastle) Arkland, a teacher at Fairview Elementary, loves to cook and she loves to teach. One she has been doing all her life and the other is a much more recent endeavor.

Ever since Jen was in third grade, she’s wanted to be a teacher. Her third grade (and favorite) teacher at Fairview was Sandy Edwards. Before beginning college, Jen was in the Iowa Army National Guard and had also worked as a pharmacy technician at the Carroll Clinic Pharmacy. She began the UNI/DMACC 2+2 Education Program in 2007 when her children were ages 2 and 1. Jen says, “Funny how the world revolves!” now that she teaches first grade since she replaced retiree, Kay Chambers, who was her first-grade teacher.

Jen loves the excitement of being a teacher. She especially loves seeing students’ faces light up when they “get it.” She tries to be a very hands-on teacher, using lots of manipulatives and keeping the students moving. Jen equally loves the excitement of the kitchen and using her creativity to make up new recipes.

Jen’s husband, Jerry, enjoys cooking just as much as she does. He is maintenance director at Quandt Auto Salvage. The couple met as members of a wedding party when Jen was only three years old. She was the flower girl and he was a groomsman. Many years later, when the married couple’s oldest child tied the knot in 2000, Jen and Jerry attended the wedding and met once again.

Jerry has one daughter, Jennifer Arkland, of Carroll, and the couple has two children. Javid is six and will be in first grade at Fairview. Javid is named after Jerry’s late brother, James, and Jen’s late father, David. Amber is five and she will begin kindergarten this fall.

As a teacher at Fairview, Jen loves to see Javid and Amber at school and to eat lunch with them. She says that’s a real treat. Amber is learning to cook and has become very good at cracking and whisking eggs.

Jen and Jerry especially love to cook together. They also like to watch the Food Network to gather new inspiration. The couple particularly enjoys making up their own versions of the dishes they see on TV. They also like to cook with as much fresh produce as possible. This year the family planted a garden for the first time and they are anticipating fresh lettuce, basil, tomatoes, corn, spaghetti squash, zucchini, and peppers very soon.

Jen has some gardening experience growing up on a farm north of Carroll. Her mother, Janis Kastle, still lives at “the home place.” Her father, Dave Kastle, passed away 13 years ago. Her sister, Julie Vonnahme, and her brothers, Lonnie Kastle and Buck Kastle, and their families, all live within one mile of the home place. The home place is where Jen’s Great-Grandmother Wurr, her Grandmother Selma Kastle, her father, and Jen and her siblings were all raised. The family used to raise cattle, so there was always plenty of beef for dinner, but now the family farms soybeans and corn.

As a child, Jen helped her mother in the kitchen and the garden and remembers how her mom could make an entire meal from fresh fruits and vegetables. Her mom liked to try new recipes and Jen’s dad would either say the meal was good or he would say, “I wouldn’t take it to the fair,” meaning, “Don’t make that again!”

Jen remembers helping her mom with canning too, but the peas never made it to the canning process since Jen and her brothers and sister would eat them straight from the garden. Jen says her mom’s homemade spaghetti sauce made from fresh tomatoes is amazing. She remembers how when she was young it was so hard to smell the sauce simmering all day and having to wait until it was time to eat.

Jen also has fond memories of her Grandma Kastle telling her stories of life on the farm in the “good ole days.” Jen loved hearing stories of milking the cows for the morning milk, gathering eggs from the hen house, and baking homemade bread. Her grandma said during thrashing, the neighbors would come to their farm and the women would cook and cook and cook while the men worked. They would cook two lunches and a huge supper. The men would eat in shifts so the work would continue all day long. When the men were done at one farm, they would move on to the next and then the next. Jen is proud to come from a long line of farmers who work hard and are proud of what they do.

Jen is appreciative her mother and grandmother’s love of cooking was passed on to her and has many warm memories of her time helping them in the kitchen. The Kastle family had a huge dinner every Sunday. The good linens covered the table and candles were lit. Everyone was sure to be there for dinner because it was their time to take a break from their busy lives and come together as a family.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Jen and Jerry have a Super Bowl tradition of making a pot of homemade soup and lots of munchies for everyone to enjoy. Since they love crab and mushrooms, this was the perfect appetizer for them to create using two of their favorite foods.

6-8 Portobello mushrooms
4 oz cream cheese, softened
6-8 Ritz crackers, crushed
4 oz imitation crab meat, chopped
shredded Cheddar cheese
Take the stems out of the mushrooms and chop. Mix them with the cream cheese, crushed crackers and chopped crab. Add salt and pepper to taste. I add a little sprinkle of sugar too. Stuff mushroom caps with filling and sprinkle with shredded Cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until mushrooms are tender (about 20-30 minutes).

Chicken Cordon Bleu Wraps

When Warm Kitchen was open, Jen used to frequently order the Chicken Cordon Bleu Wrap after her stepdaughter, Jennifer Arkland, of Carroll, told her about it. When Warm Kitchen closed, Jen created her own version.

4 slices deli ham
2 slices provolone cheese, cut in half
4 slices Swiss cheese
¼ c cooked white rice
¼ c Ranch dressing diluted with a little milk
½ c cooked chicken, shredded or cut into strips
4 spinach tortillas
On a large spinach tortilla, layer ham, cheeses, rice and ranch/milk mixture. Roll up like a burrito and microwave about a minute until cheese melts and wrap is warmed through.

Pasta Milano

A few years ago, Jen ate at Romano’s Macaroni Grill in West Des Moines and ordered the Pasta Milano. Luckily she found a recipe in a cooking magazine and added it to the Arkland’s collection of favorite recipes. Jen says any type of pasta can be used. She suggests serving it with a lettuce salad and garlic rubbed baguette.

12 oz bow tie pasta, cooked and drained
1T butter
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 ½ c half and half
1 packet Knorr garlic herb sauce mix
2 c grilled chicken, cut into strips
1/3 c sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 T Parmesan cheese
2T parsley
Saute mushrooms in butter for about 5 minutes. Add half and half and garlic herb sauce mix. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes while stirring (don’t let half and half scald). Add remaining ingredients and heat through. May need to add a little pasta water if your sauce seems too thick. Serve sauce over hot noodles.

Pork Chops and Rice

When Jen’s sister, Julie Vonnahme, and sister-in-law, Lindsay Kastle, had babies, Jen wanted to create a simple supper to bring to them. Jen usually makes it with rice, but has also replaced the rice with Stove Top stuffing. It can be made in a slow cooker or baked in the oven in a casserole dish.

4 pork chops
1 can cream of mushroom soup
½ of a soup can of milk
salt and pepper
Coat the chops in flour and brown in a frying pan with a little oil. Place in a slow cooker or crockpot. Combine soup, milk and salt and pepper and add to chops. Allow to cook on low all day. Prepare rice and place chops and sauce over rice.

Bleu Cheese Potatoes

This side dish recipe was shared with Jen by her former co-worker, Sherrie Klocke, at the Carroll Clinic Pharmacy, during a luncheon. Jen tweaked it a bit to suit her family’s tastes. Jen warns this dish is a bit rich, but delicious! She entered this recipe in a contest and won a $50 prize.

6 medium potatoes
1-3 T dried rosemary, depending upon your taste
1/3 c crumbled Bleu cheese
1/3 c Parmesan cheese
½ c sour sream
1 c heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste
Peel and slice potatoes and toss with salt, pepper and rosemary. Mix bleu cheese, Parmesan, sour cream and heavy cream. Add to potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until potatoes are tender and sauce is bubbly.

Cauliflower Salad

Cauliflower salad is a Kastle family favorite and a “must have” at every holiday. Jen’s late grandma, Selma Kastle, used to make it every holiday and now Jen is carrying on the family tradition.

1 head of cauliflower
1 pkg Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix
1 pint cottage cheese
1 pint real mayonnaise
½ pint sour cream
Remove stem and clean and cut cauliflower into bite size pieces. Mix together the remaining ingredients and combine with cauliflower. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Chocolate Pie

Jen gives credit to her Grandma Kastle for this dessert. Jen was once told the way to a man’s heart is through is stomach and it’s worked for her. This is one of the first things she made for Jerry and even after eleven years, he still loves her cooking.

¾ c sugar
3T corn starch
3T flour
½ tsp salt
2 ½ c hot milk
4T cocoa
In a small bowl, blend sugar, corn starch, flour and salt. Stir in hot milk until thickened. Add cocoa and stir until smooth. Pour into a prepared pie crust and top with meringue or cool whip.