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Contest winner shares recipes

August 31, 2003

In January, Nora Baker was browsing through a magazine and came upon a contest she thought she'd like to enter.

The maker of French's Original and Cheddar French Fried Onions was asking for their "cheesiest top ten cooking tips" using the product's cheddar variety.

Baker, 43, sometimes enters sweepstakes contests, but she never won anything.

Her "cheesy" entries made a difference. She devised some recipes, offered some tips and won herself a digital camera.

She suggested using the cheddar onions in macaroni and cheese, on baked potatoes, in a green bean casserole, on pizza, in salad, baked beans and chili.

Another idea was Nora's Triple Crunchy Cheddar Ham and Macaroni One-Dish Supper, and she recently made it and shared the recipe.

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Staff Writer Kate Coleman paid a visit to the lifelong Hagerstown resident. Baker's cozy kitchen holds some of the bears she collects, a decorative swag she made, canisters she painted and a shelf handcrafted by her husband of 25 years, Dean Baker.

The couple's children - son, Rodney, and daughter, Amy - are grown. Amy is expecting her first child in January - Nora and Dean Baker's first grandchild.

Baker likes simplicity in her cooking.

"I'm not into all this chop and dice and hours and hours in the kitchen," she says.

How often are you in the kitchen? How often do you cook dinner?

Pretty much, three or four times a week.

And I like to bake. Before I went to work full time, I used to bake homemade stuff all the time. His (husband Dean Baker's) mommy had him spoiled to homemade cakes and pies and he wouldn't eat a box cake when we first got married, so I started making homemade everything. Homemade bread - you name it.

I have a bread machine now, but I used to make the (bread) where you had to let it rise. I have a basic sweet yeast recipe that I use when I make the homemade bread.

Do you still do that sometimes?

I haven't done it in a long time. That's where you've got to do the kneading and all that.

Where did you learn to cook?

My aunt. Her name was Elsie Kump. She raised me, and she taught me how to cook.

What kinds of things did she teach you to cook?

She never cooked with recipes. She was one of the old-time cooks that cooked a pinch of this, a pinch of that. So she taught me how to make things like potpie - with the dough, fried chicken, the good fried chicken, lasagna and steamers. Just pretty much everything. Homemade bread. She's the one who taught me to make that.

My first attempt with that - it turned out like rocks. I cooked dinner for my husband, and my brother was visiting. We had just gotten married not long before that. The bread got so hard, and they teased me.

It upset me, because they were beating the bread on the side of the (table). I said, "Just give it here, and I'll throw it out in the yard."

They said, "Don't do that, the birds will break their beaks."

Do you have a favorite thing to cook?

I like baking more than anything. Baking cookies. At Christmas, I do a lot of homemade cookies. I think baking would be my favorite.

Dean, what's your favorite thing that Nora makes?

Everything she makes is good. I like it all.

How about with your kids growing up? Do they have a favorite thing?

They like the macaroni and cheese. My daughter is crazy about my macaroni and cheese.

They're not picky eaters. They eat just about anything. These are kids that actually ate liver and onions. And spinach.

Do you have a favorite thing to eat?

Mashed potatoes is probably my favorite food.

Dean Baker spoke up from the next room.

And chocolate cake.

Chocolate cake?

He had his mother - one year for my birthday - make a triple-layer chocolate cake with chocolate icing. It was really good. His mom's a really good baker.

So will he eat a box cake now?

Yes.

He's not real big on cake though. He's a pie person. And of course, he will eat Mrs. Smith's.

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