Heart of the Home

Daughter appreciated what father did for her, others


GRAND-PRIZE WINNER: Carolyn Gurtz, of Gaithersburg, Md., earned top honors with her creative cookies.

Pillsbury Bake-Off® Contest

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My dad was only 45 years old when he passed away. However, he accomplished many things in the short time he was on this earth.

As a young man, he used to walk the railroad tracks to gather coal so his family could heat their home. He was always taking care of someone. He married my mom when he was very young. They were both raised in a Norman Rockwell-type of town.

Dad was the father of two boys and two girls, and he was always busy. He was a fire chief, on the high school board of directors, and a member of many local clubs. He built a bowling alley for the community and a grocery store for his mother to run.
All of this was done while he was running his own businesses - building homes, managing a grain elevator and moving houses.

He employed many people. At one time, he had around 100 employees in his grain elevator business alone.

These were all great accomplishments, but his true character shone when he was helping young people to realize their dreams. Many young couples started their marriage with a boost from my dad.

In the 1950s, when conflict was tearing apart Hungary and other small countries, my father decided to sponsor a family of four and five single men from Hungary.

He arranged for them to come and live in our small town, provided them with a home, a job and support to become independent. There are many stories to tell about how they adjusted to their new way of life - some funny and some very sad.

I always knew I could count on my dad. When I got married, he provided the down payment for our house.

He could do anything, and he was very well-liked by the townspeople. He was my security blanket. I had to grow up fast after he passed away.

I know there are other dads that are wonderful, but my dad was the best in my eyes - and always will be.

Mount Pulaski, Ill.

Call leads to reunion with Dad

The phone rang about 7 a.m. that Sunday.

'This is your father,' my dad said. 'It's Father's Day, and I've been thinking about you.'

He apologized for forgetting about the three-hour time difference and waking me up. I wished him a happy Father's Day and went back to sleep.

Later that day, I realized that as his daughter, I should have been the one to call him on his special day.

Because my parents divorced when I was very young, I hardly knew my father. However, now I was glad he had called. If he really did care about me, we might be able to get to know each other.

I was happily married with two small children, and I thought my dad would like to meet them. My husband suggested we invite Dad to visit us for a few days. This proved to be a good plan.

Dad enjoyed his grandchildren, and we had a good time as a family. He and I began to understand and love each other, and for the rest of his life, we remained close.

It had all come about because a father decided to call his daughter on Father's Day.

Whittier, Calif.

Eighth child came as Father's Day gift

The most memorable Father's Day for me was June 15, 1975, when I was expecting our eighth child. We had already been blessed with a son and six daughters.

A few days before Father's Day, I had gone to the doctor for a checkup. My doctor gave me a choice between being induced or waiting to deliver when the time came.

My due date was June 15th, which was Father's Day. I chose to let nature take its course, in hopes that I would deliver on Father's Day as a gift to my husband.

My wishes came true. I gave birth to our seventh daughter on Father's Day. We would have been pleased to have another son, but we were always thankful for each child, whether it was a boy or a girl.

This year, Father's Day falls on June 15, just as it did 33 years ago.

We're looking forward to celebrating another memorable Father's Day with our eight children, their spouses and our 20 grandchildren.

Riverside, Iowa

Grandparents and grandchildren

What sort of things do you enjoy doing with your grandchildren? Do you like to take them fishing or help them bake cookies? Are you able to spend much time with them? Did you spend a lot of time with your grandparents when you were growing up? What did you do with your grandparents? How about your children - did they get to spend time with their grandparents very often? What kinds of things did they do together?

Tell us your stories about grandparents and grandchildren. Send your letters (and photos) by July 16 to CAPPER'S, Kate Marchbanks, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265.

Pillsbury Bake-Off serves up big winners

Out of 100 participants in the 43rd Pillsbury Bake-Off®, held in Dallas recently, Carolyn Gurtz, of Gaithersburg, Md., walked away a big winner - and a very happy woman.

Her entry, Double-Delight Peanut Butter Cookies, won her the top prize in the Sweet Treats category and also captured the Jif® Peanut Butter Award, for a total prize of $10,000. As if that wasn't exciting enough, she was also awarded the grand prize - $1 million and a complete set of GE appliances valued at $10,000.

Inspired by her love of baking and the great taste of peanut butter, Gurtz combined refrigerated peanut butter cookies with creamy peanut butter and dry roasted peanuts.

Judges praised the prize-winning recipe for its simplicity and approachability, calling it an unexpected cookie bursting with peanut butter flavor.

Four other category winners each took home a $5,000 prize and a GE Profile™ Double Oven Freestanding Range for their award-winning entries. There was also a $5,000 prize given to the winner of the America's Favorite Recipe Award, and a set of GE ProfileTM appliances went to the winner of the GE Imagination at Work Award.

Carolyn Gurtz created peanut butter cookies that are crunchy outside and creamy inside, with just a hint of cinnamon. Her delicious creation earned her three prizes this year at the Bake-Off.

Double-Delight Peanut Butter Cookies

¼ cup finely chopped dry roasted peanuts
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup powdered sugar
1 roll (16.5 oz.) refrigerated peanut butter cookies, well-chilled

Heat oven to 375°F.

In a small bowl, combine peanuts, sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

In another small bowl, stir peanut butter and powdered sugar together until completely blended. Shape mixture into 24 balls, about 1 inch in diameter.

Cut cookie dough into 12 slices. Cut each slice in half crosswise to make 24 pieces; flatten each piece slightly. Shape 1 piece of dough around 1 peanut butter ball, covering completely. Repeat with remaining dough and peanut butter balls.

Roll each dough-covered peanut butter ball in peanut mixture. Gently pat mixture completely onto balls.

Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Spray the bottom of a drinking glass with nonstick cooking spray and press it into remaining peanut mixture. Flatten each ball to ½-inch thickness with the bottom of the glass, dipping the glass into peanut mixture as needed.

Sprinkle any remaining peanut mixture evenly over the tops of cookies; gently press into dough.

Bake for 7 to 12 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Cool for 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to a wire rack. Store tightly covered. Yields 24 cookies.

This dish, which combines biscuits and rich, creamy filling, was created by Pamela Shank, of Parkersburg, W. Va., and won in the Breakfast & Brunches category.

Mascarpone-Filled Cranberry-Walnut Rolls

¼ cup coarsely chopped sweetened dried cranberries
¹/³ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 can (12 oz.) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon mascarpone cheese or cream cheese, softened
¼ cup butter, melted
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix cranberries and walnuts; set aside. In another small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

Separate dough into 10 biscuits; press each biscuit into a 3-inch round. Place a heaping teaspoon of mascarpone cheese in center of each biscuit. Bring all sides of dough up over filling, stretching gently, if necessary, and gather in the center above the filling to form a ball; firmly pinch edges to seal.

Roll each biscuit in melted butter, then in sugar-cinnamon mixture. Place 1 biscuit in the center of the pan, seam side down. Arrange remaining biscuits, seam sides down and sides touching, in a circle around the center biscuit. Pour remaining butter over biscuits; sprinkle with remaining sugar-cinnamon mixture. Sprinkle with all but ¼ cup of the cranberry-walnut mixture.

Bake for 28 to 33 minutes, or until biscuits are golden brown. Place a heatproof serving plate upside down on the pan; carefully turn the plate and pan over.

Let stand for 1 minute, then carefully remove the pan. Sprinkle remaining cranberry-walnut mixture over the rolls.

In a medium bowl, stir powdered sugar and milk together until smooth and of glaze consistency. Drizzle glaze over the top of the rolls. Serve warm. Yields 10 servings.

These pinwheel appetizers earned Phyllis Weeks-Daniel, of San Diego, the GE Imagination at Work Award.

Blue Cheese and Red Onion Jam Crescent Thumbprints

1 package (3 oz.) cream cheese, softened
½ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1 can (8 oz.) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
¹/³ cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon 100 percent extra virgin or pure olive oil
¹/³ cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ cup apricot preserves
¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Heat oven to 375°F.

In a small bowl, mix cheeses with a fork until blended; set aside.

Unroll and separate dough into 2 rectangles, each about 11 inches long. Place 1 rectangle on a cutting board; press perforations together to seal. Spread half the cheese mixture over dough to within ½ inch of long sides; sprinkle half the pecans evenly over the cheese. Starting at 1 long side, roll up; press seam to seal.

Cut roll into 16 slices (about ¾-inch thick) with a serrated knife; place cut sides down on an ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, cheese and pecans.
Bake for 14 to 17 minutes, or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, in an 8-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned. Remove from heat. Stir in vinegar, preserves (breaking up large pieces of fruit if necessary) and thyme; set aside.

After removing rolls from the oven, immediately press the back of a teaspoon into the center of each roll to make a small indentation. Spoon slightly less than ½ teaspoon jam mixture into each indentation. Remove from cookie sheet. Serve warm. Yields 32 appetizers.

Niki Plourde, of Gardner, Mass., was the winner of the Pizza Creations category for her sweet and savory pizza.

Apple-Jack Chicken Pizza with Caramelized Onions

3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 large sweet onions, such as Maui or Walla Walla, very thinly sliced
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 can (13.8 oz.) refrigerated classic pizza crust
1 sweet apple, unpeeled, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon sugar
3 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
¹/³ cup cooked real bacon bits (from 3-oz. package)
2 medium green onions, sliced
1 package (6 oz.) shredded pepper Jack cheese
1 package (6 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onions and thyme; cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden. Stir in salt and pepper. Remove onion mixture from skillet; set aside.

Heat oven to 425°F. Spray a large cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Unroll pizza crust on cookie sheet; press dough into a 14-by-10-inch rectangle. Bake for 7 to 11 minutes, or until light golden brown. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F.

Meanwhile, in the same skillet, melt remaining butter over medium heat. Add apple slices and sugar; cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sugar is melted and apple slices are slightly soft. Set aside.

Spread onion mixture over the partially baked crust. Top evenly with layers of chicken, apple mixture, bacon bits, green onions and cheeses.

Bake for 10 to 20 minutes longer, or until cheeses are melted and crust is golden brown. Yields 8

Vanda Pozzanghera, of Pittsford, N.Y., took the prize in the Old El Paso® Mexican Favorites category for her pesto-flavored tacos.

Mexican Pesto-Pork Tacos

1 package (17 oz.) refrigerated fully cooked pork roast au jus
2 tablespoons orange juice
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 medium tomato, chopped (about ¾ cup)
1 medium avocado, pitted, peeled and chopped (about ¾ cup)
2 teaspoons lime juice
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups lightly packed fresh cilantro sprigs
¾ cup Spanish peanuts
2 to 3 cloves garlic
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and chopped
¼ cup pure olive oil
1 box (10 count) taco shells
1 package shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Lime and orange wedges, optional
Fresh cilantro sprigs, optional

Heat oven to 325°F.

In a medium microwavable bowl, shred pork roast; discard juice. Combine orange juice and cumin; add pork and toss well. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, combine tomato, avocado, lime juice, sugar and salt; set aside.

Place cilantro sprigs, peanuts, garlic, jalapeño chile and oil in a food processor bowl with a metal blade. Cover and process for about 30 seconds, or until pesto is well-blended; set aside.

Heat taco shells in oven as directed on box. Meanwhile, cover the bowl of pork mixture with a paper towel. Microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes, or until warm.

To serve, spread about 1 tablespoon pesto over one side of each taco shell. Fill each with about ¼ cup warm pork mixture, 1 tablespoon avocado mixture and 1 heaping tablespoon cheese. Garnish with lime wedges, orange wedges and additional fresh cilantro sprigs, if desired, before serving. Yields 10 tacos.

Online voters named Gwen Beau-champ, of Lancaster, Texas, the winner of the America's Favorite Recipe Award for her delectable brownies.

Toffee-Banana Brownies

1 box (19.5 oz.) fudge brownie mix
½ cup pure vegetable oil
¼ cup water
3 eggs
1½ cups toffee bits, divided
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
2 firm ripe medium bananas, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping

Heat oven to 350°F. Generously spray a 13-by-9-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a bowl, stir brownie mix, oil, water and eggs 50 strokes. Stir in 1 cup toffee bits, nuts and bananas. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining toffee bits over the top.

Bake for 38 to 48 minutes, or until center is set when lightly touched, top is slightly dry, and edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool for 2 hours. Drizzle with caramel ice cream topping before serving. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers. Yields 24 servings.

Edgar Rudberg, of St. Paul, Minn., won the Entertaining Appetizers category for his crispy appetizers bursting with cheesy-dill flavor.

Salmon Pastries with Dill Pesto

½ cup lightly packed chopped fresh dill weed
¹/³ cup light olive oil
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
²/³ cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
Salt, optional
Pepper, optional
¾ pound salmon fillet, thawed, if frozen
1 package (15 oz.) refrigerated pie crusts, thawed according to directions on box
Dill weed sprigs, optional

Heat oven to 400°F.

Place chopped dill weed, oil, walnuts, lime juice, garlic, mustard, ½ cup cheese, salt and pepper in a food processor bowl with a metal blade, or in a blender. Cover and process, stopping once to scrape side of the bowl, until smooth. Set Dill Pesto aside.

If the salmon has skin or bones, remove and discard them; rinse the fillet and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut salmon into 24 (1-inch) cubes; set aside.

On a cutting board, roll out 1 pie crust into a 12-inch round. Cut into 4 rows by 3 rows to make 12 (4-by-3-inch) rectangles. Repeat with remaining crust. (Rectangles cut at the edge of the crust will have a rounded side.)

Spoon 1 teaspoon Dill Pesto onto center of each rectangle; top with 1 cube of salmon. Bring 4 corners of each rectangle over the filling to the center and pinch at the top; pinch corners, leaving small openings on the sides to vent steam. (For rectangles with a rounded side, bring 3 points together at the top, pinching to seal.) Place pastries 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Place remaining Dill Pesto in a small resealable plastic bag. Cut a small tip off a bottom corner of the bag; squeeze bag to drizzle pesto over a serving plate. Place pastries on the serving plate and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Garnish with dill weed sprigs,
if desired, before serving. Yields 24 appetizers.

A Letter from Kate

June was one of those months packed full of special occasions for our family. Besides Father's Day, we had two anniversaries and five birthdays.

One year we celebrated both anniversaries and most of the birthdays on Father's Day. My parents' living room was full of family. It was typical of our family gatherings at the time, but those days are few and far between now.

Another Father's Day is a much harder one to recall. I had just found out about my dad's cancer, and Dad had just moved into a care facility the day before Father's Day. It was a difficult time for the whole family.

The next day at church, I couldn't keep from crying. I feared it would be the last Father's Day I would celebrate with my dad - and it turned out that it was.

Even though I wasn't very close to my dad when I was growing up, I developed a good relationship with him later in life. I have been blessed with wonderful memories of being with him, even if it was just watching a baseball game on TV or sitting on the porch enjoying a beautiful spring day.

Dad loved spending time outdoors - watering the lawn, tending the flower or vegetable garden, or just tinkering around in the garage.

When I spend time working out in the yard, I feel close to Dad. He took great pride in his lawn, garden and home, and I now understand the pride he felt. 

 Naturally, I miss my dad very much, but I'm comforted by the fact that I will see him again in heaven someday. I won't be a bit surprised if I find him tending God's garden.

Kate Marchbanks

Together with God

Fathers certainly have changed over the years. There was a time, a few generations ago, when fathers were stern dictators. Now we've reached a new generation of fathers who are gentler and kinder.

It seems that fathers today take interest in their children's sports, school activities and personal lives. They are connected to their families more than ever before, and the family unit is getting stronger because of it.

There is great strength in a man who is capable of playing with his children - showing them how to ride a bike or throw a ball. It is a great responsibility that many men are accepting readily.

Times change, and sometimes it's for the best. With all the love fathers are showing their children today, future generations will be even closer in their relationships.

I'm glad we honor fathers with this special day. They deserve it.

Father, thank You for the social growth of the human race that has brought fathers into a better relationship with their children. Guide them in their efforts to become more involved with their children's lives. Give them the strength and wisdom to help lead the family to Your grace. Amen.

- D. Susan Rutz