Meals made easy

SAC CITY – When you’re a busy mother like Mary Ludwig, impatience is a virtue when it comes to recipes that are fast, flavorful and nutritious.

“I’ve always liked to cook,” said Ludwig, a Fort Dodge native who lives on a farm in Sac County and serves as the director of marketing, development and volunteers at Stewart Memorial Community Hospital in Lake City. “My mom and dad were great cooks, and I love to try new recipes.”

Some of her trusted recipes come from her co-workers at SMCH, which hosts friendly competitions like the Super Salad Showdown and the Crock Pot Cookoff throughout the year.

Other reliable recipes come from her extensive collection of cookbooks, including the centennial cookbook from Auburn, where her husband, Bret Ludwig, grew up.

“We also love our collection of recipes from Evelyn Ludwig, who is my husband’s grandmother,” said Ludwig, a mother of three daughters: Tyrei, 18; Tristin, 7; and Emerson, 5.

Making memories one meal at a time is important to Ludwig, she said.

“Being able to spend time in the kitchen together and eating meals as a family is something we all enjoy,” she said.

Ludwig’s career has taken her from Sioux City where she was a morning television news anchor for five years, then to Faith, Hope and Charity in Storm Lake, a private, nonprofit agency servng children and young adults with disabilities, where she served as development director for six years before joining SMCH.

Crock pot French dip

1 beef chuck or rump roast

2 cans beef broth

1 packet dry Italian salad dressing mix

Cheese slices of your choice (Mary uses Swiss cheese)

Place meat in slow cooker. Add broth and salad dressing mix. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

Slice meat thin and place on buns.

Top the meat on each sandwich with a slice of cheese, and bake at 450 degrees until cheese melts. Add top bun to each French dip.

Serve the liquid from the slow cooker as the au jus for the French dip sandwiches.

Minestrone soup

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic

1 cup celery, finely sliced

4 14-ounce cans chicken broth

2 medium potatoes, cubed

1 cup carrots, sliced

1 cup zucchini, chopped

4 tablespoons tomato paste

2 14.5-ounce cans diced Italian-style tomatoes

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained

1 15-ounce can super-sweet white corn

1 bag frozen corn

2 tablespoons dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried basil

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 or 2 rings of lite smoked sausage

1 pound of hamburger, browned and seasoned with salt and pepper

1 to 2 cups corkscrew macaroni, cooked

Saute onion, garlic and celery in butter until vegetables are soft.

Add chicken broth, potatoes, carrots and zucchini. Simmer 20 minutes.

Add tomato paste, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, white corn, frozen corn, parsley, basil, Worcestershire sauce, sausage and hamburger.

Add pasta half an hour before serving. This soup makes about 10 servings.

Cornbread salad

1 recipe of cornbread

1 envelope ranch dressing mix

1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup each of chopped red bell pepper, green bell pepper, green onions, several chopped tomatoes and black olives

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

10 slices bacon, fried very crispy, and crumbled

2 cans whole-kernel corn, drained

Prepare the cornbread, bake and cool. Stir together ranch dressing mix, sour cream and mayonnaise until blended; set aside.

Combine bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and olives. Toss gently.

Crumble half of the cornbread into a large bowl. Top with half each of tomato mixture, cheese, bacon, corn and dressing mixture.

Repeat layers.

Cover and chill for at least 3 hours. When ready to serve, stir everything together.

(This salad is also good without ranch dressing package mix. Plus, you may add any veggies you want.)

Triple chocolate fantasy cake

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup coffee-flavored liqueur or water

2 eggs

1 package chocolate cake mix

1 package (4-serving size) instant chocolate pudding

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Powdered sugar or white chocolate

Mix cream cheese, sour cream, liqueur and eggs with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.

Add cake mix and pudding mix; beat until well blended.

Fold in chocolate chips. (Batter will be stiff.)

Pour batter into greased and floured 12-cup fluted tube pan.

Bake at 325 degrees for approximately one hour, or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cool cake 5 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar, or drizzle with melted white chocolate before serving.

Szechuan beef and broccoli

1 pound top round steak, sliced against the grain into scant 1/4-inch-thick strips

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt and pepper, to taste

Olive oil

1 14-ounce bag frozen broccoli (about 5 cups)

1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1/4 cup bottled stir-fry sauce

In a large bowl, combine the steak, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Toss until well combined.

Place a large, nonstick skillet or nonstick wok over high heat. When hot, mist with olive oil.

Add the broccoli and garlic and cook, stirring, for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the garlic softens and the broccoli is heated through and crisp-tender, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Transfer to a large bowl and cover to keep warm.

Return the pan to high heat and add 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.

When hot, add half of the steak in a single layer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned on both sides.

Transfer the steak to the bowl with the vegetables and re-cover. Repeat with the remaining 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and steak.

Return all the steak and vegetables to the pan and remove from heat. Add the stir-fry sauce and mix well to coat. Serve with rice, if desired.

BBQ green beans

2 cans green beans, drained

1 can tomato soup

1 onion, diced

1/2 cup brown sugar

Bacon strips

Combine green beans, tomato soup, onion and brown sugar in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan. Press ingredients down. Cover with bacon strips. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees.