Kalona Cooks: I love it when a plan comes together!!

By Mary Marek
Posted 6/10/99

Only two weeks (less when you’re actually reading this) until Kalona Days. I’m sure not everyone loves Kalona Days as much as I do (although I can’t think of a reason why not), but I’m really …

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Kalona Cooks: I love it when a plan comes together!!


Only two weeks (less when you’re actually reading this) until Kalona Days. I’m sure not everyone loves Kalona Days as much as I do (although I can’t think of a reason why not), but I’m really looking forward to it.

As you know, if you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few months, I’m on the Kalona Days committee this year. Probably because of this column, I was asked to be in charge of the pie and cookie contest. If whoever suggested me for this job actually read this column, they would know how very little it has to do with cooking. And, even if I do write about cooking occasionally, I don’t have time to do much actual cooking myself. But, even if I don’t bake many pies, I suppose I’m still capable of conducting a pie-judging contest. I hope.

I should probably start thinking about recruiting a pie contest committee pretty soon (that would be you, Colette). I’ve been so busy at work and at home that all of a sudden I realized I haven’t the slightest idea what I’m doing. About the pie contest, I mean. Although I’m often pretty vague about what I’m doing in general. I tend to get side-tracked easily. I mean, I can be walking from one end of the office to the other and before I get where I’m going, I forget why I was going there. Or where exactly I was going. When that happens, I usually stop and ask the world in general, “Does anyone know what I was doing?” Usually, the world doesn’t answer and I have to figure it out for myself.

Sometimes I’ll start writing my column and I’ll completely lose my train of thought and find myself writing about something altogether different from where I started. For instance, I could be writing about baking a pie, when all of a sudden, I start thinking about the weather.

Speaking of the weather, wasn’t that some rain we had Sunday? We had almost three-quarters of an inch at home. It rained so hard, there were times I couldn’t see the trees down at Marlin’s. I heard on the TV that east of Washington, they had softball-sized hail. Thank goodness we didn’t have any, although we did have a little hail Friday afternoon.

That was a nice little rain we had Friday, too. Did you hear the big KABOOM about 2 o’clock Friday afternoon? Callie, Jeanette and I were standing in the office, watching the rain and almost jumped out of our skins when that big clap of thunder went off.

I hope it doesn’t rain on Kalona Days.

Speaking of Kalona Days, I think we’re going to have the best Kalona Days ever this year. Just in case you’ve missed the schedule of events in the paper, I’ll just run down it again here.

The festivities start at 6:30 p.m., Friday, when the Janet Long Dancers perform on the stage in the park. At 7 p.m. the variety show starts. We’ve got some great acts lined up so you better be there. One of the better acts will be the Kalona Days Committee. We don’t know exactly what our act will be, but Tina Swartzendruber, the chair of the committee, has something planned for us. I may call in sick.

During the variety show, the winners of the “What Kalona Means To Me” poster contest will be announced. The posters will be on display in the local banks the week prior to Kalona Days. A panel of local teachers will choose the winners.

The winners of the Little Miss & Mr. Contest also will be announced Friday evening. Residents at Pleasantview will choose these winners Thursday evening. Hopefully all the Little Miss & Mr. contestants will be in the park Friday night, ‘cause they have to be there to win. The winners will get to ride in a special car in the parade Saturday.

The Ugliest Legs in Kalona Contest will be held during the variety show. Contestants will line up on stage (we’ll hide their faces with a curtain or something) and the winner will be chosen by the audience. I’m not sure if the legs that get the most applause or the least applause will win. I mean, if something is really ugly, would you applaud for it? Luckily, I’m not the one who has to make this decision.

If you saw the legs we used in the advertising for this contest and you thought they were so ugly no one else had a chance of winning, you were probably right. However, those legs will be out of town that weekend, so the rest of you ugly legs have a chance.

This contest is open to both men and women, although I can’t imagine a woman entering. Our legs may be ugly, but we’re not going to advertise that fact.

At the end of the variety show, the pie eating contest will take place. This is the contest where you bid on a cream pie (which are being made by Patsy King) for yourself or a “friend” to eat in the contest. Six pies will be sold. During the contest, you or your “friend” will eat the pie using no utensils or hands. The person who can eat an entire cream pie in this manner without getting any whipped cream on his (or her) face wins. Not really. I believe the winner is whoever eats it the fastest. (In case you’re wondering why I put the word “friend” in quotation marks, it’s because if a “friend” of mine entered me in this contest, they wouldn’t be a “friend” for long. If you know what I mean.)

The street dance is at 9:30 p.m. Friday on B Avenue. One Way Trip, a band made up of Mid-Prairie High School students, will provide the music.

Ice cream will be available during the evening in the park and pop and other refreshments will be on hand at the street dance.

Saturday’s events start bright and early with the Fun Run/Walk at 8 a.m. The run/walk starts in the park and the first 25 who sign up will receive a free T-shirt. Contact the Rec Building to register early.

The Car Show, sponsored by Gretter Motors, in the open lot at the corner of 6th Street and B Avenue also starts at 8 a.m. That’s when the Farm Toy Show in the Rec Building and the Craft Show in the B-4 Building open, too.

The Pie & Cookie Baking and Ugly Cake Decorating Contests start at 9 a.m. in Hills Bank Kalona. Have your entries there by 8, please.

I’m looking forward to the Ugly Cake Decorating Contest. I’m looking forward to all of the contests, of course, but I’m really anxious to see just how ugly you kids can make a cake (this contest is open to kids, ages 9-15). I know that I, personally, can make a pretty ugly cake (and I don’t even have to be trying). Here’s my chance to see if anyone can beat me for ugliness when it comes to cake decorating.

Also at 9 a.m. is the Pedal Tractor Pull on B Avenue in front on the Chamber Building.

Immediately following the pie/cookie/cake judging (approximately 10:30), the entries will be auctioned off in front of Hills Bank Kalona. This is assuming our judges (Joe Winters and Renee Chou from KCRG-TV 9 and Mary Sharpe from the Cedar Rapids Gazette) don’t eat them all.

The parade will start to line up at 11 a.m. Sign-in for the parade is at the corner of A Avenue and 4th Street. I would suggest to really big parade entries that they come south on 5th Street to A Avenue, then turn west. Park and walk to 4th Street to sign-in. There’s no good place for a semi or other long float to turn around down there.

The parade starts at noon. Because of the change in staging area, this year’s parade will go backwards. No, I don’t mean the floats will be driving backwards, although that might be an interesting parade. I mean the parade route is backwards. Look elsewhere in the paper for a map.

After the parade, at approximately 1 p.m., the bed races start on B Avenue in front of Farmer’s Savings Bank (Hills Bank Kalona got the pie contest – FSB gets the bed races; it’s only fair. If someone wants to open a third bank in town before Kalona Days, we’ll find a contest for them to host, too.). As of right this very minute, we’ve only got one team entered in the bed races. It’s going to be a pretty boring race if there’s only one bed flying down B Avenue (and I’m not sure how they’d race themselves), so let’s get some teams entered. OK?!?!?

I really enjoyed the bed races last year. I thought poor Tom Jepson was going to have a heart attack (that’s not why I enjoyed it – it’s just something I noticed) when his team had to take two turns and I swear Lori TeBockhorst was actually airborne at one point when the rest of her team ran faster than she could go.

Following the bed races (which might be pretty short if we only have one bed racing), we’ll have the grocery cart races. It was originally thought that this event would be for kids, ages 12-17, because they’re too young to race in beds (you have to be at least 18 years old to race in a bed). It was brought to the committee’s attention, though, that some older teens might want to push a grocery cart wildly down the street with one of their friends (or enemies) in the cart holding on for dear life, so we raised the age limit to anyone crazy enough to want to do this. I, personally, am not old enough. As far as I’m concerned, racing of any sort is strictly a spectator sport.


Just since I typed that last paragraph, two more teams have signed up for the bed races. The first team that signed up won’t have to chase themselves up and down the street after all.

As I was saying…..

Before, after and during all the fun downtown Saturday, fun things will be happening in the park, too. From 9-11 a.m. there will be kids games in the park. There will be those big inflated jumpy-things kids seem to like, as well as some “games of chance” (“chances” of winning these are pretty good).

At 3 p.m., more fun stuff will start happening in the park. Stephanie Snyder has organized Art in the Park for the little kids. They can get their faces painted with markers (hopefully not the permanent ones) as well as create their own art with marble painting, pudding painting and bookmark making. The “What Kalona Means to Me” posters also will be on display in the park.

The always-popular golf cart obstacle course and dunk tank start at 3 p.m. as well as a new event – a Garden Tractor Pull. This is organized by the Chad Murphy of the Lone Tree Garden Tractor Pullers and will be held on the north end of the slow-pitch parking lot, where the grown-up tractors have their pull.

In case there are one or two of you who have never seen the golf cart obstacle race, it works like this: Two people get in a golf cart. One of them (the driver – it would be pretty boring if it was the passenger) is blind-folded. The other one (that would be the passenger) gives the blind-folded driver directions. The object is to drive around a bunch of randomly placed bales of hay and get back to the finish line without killing any of the spectators. This is a really fun event to watch from far, far away with a pair of binoculars.

If you’ve ever wanted to drive a golf cart blind-folded, be at least 16 years old and show up at the park with a passenger Saturday afternoon.

Also going on Saturday are the helicopter rides. The helicopter will be in the park, south of the campground starting at 10 a.m.

There will be food booths set up in the park Saturday, and a clown will be walking around selling light sticks.

The Kalona Days Committee will have a table set up where you can buy tickets to use to play the games and buy the souvenirs. Tickets will sell 4-for-$1. This way, you can give your kids a bunch of tickets and send them on their way and not worry if they’re going to loose the five bucks you just gave them. That’s assuming your kids are as careless as mine. The ticket booth will be in the same area as the food-booths.

The tickets won’t be good at the food booths, though. The Kalona Days Committee isn’t in charge of those.

At 5 p.m. the bar-b-qued beef meal will be served. It’s free, but good-will donations will be gratefully accepted.

The live entertainment starts at 6 p.m. when beckon plays. These guys (and girls) played at Fall Festival last year and they are great. Don’t miss them.

Renegade plays at 7:30 p.m. I’ve never heard this band, but I understand they’re good, too. They play country and oldies and just about anything. I’m looking forward to hearing them.

Finally, to wrap up the whole shebang, you can take a midnight swim in the Kalona pool from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. I’ve promised Cody he can go this year, so if you see me sleeping on a bench near the pool, don’t wake me.

That’s it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love Kalona Days and I think this year is going to be the best year yet. I’d better see you there. Or else.


Oh, yeah, I almost forgot the cooking part of this column. Mom came up with some eggplant recipes to share. I’ve never been a fan of eggplant, but Mom and Pat like it. Did you know eggplants are berries? They belong to the same family as tomatoes and potatoes. I never really thought of a potato as a berry, but what do I know?


Open-Faced Lamb Burgers with Eggplant and Mushrooms

1 lb. lean ground lamb

1 tbls. minced fresh or 2 tsps. dried mint

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp. olive oil, divided

4 c. diced peeled eggplant (about 1 pound)

2 c. vertically sliced Vidalia or other sweet onion

2 c. thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 4 ounces)

1 tbls. balsamic vinegar

4 (1/4-inch thick) slices tomato

2 (1 1/2-oz) French bread rolls, halved and toasted

Prepare grill. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Divide lamb mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a thick patty. Place patties on a grill rack; grill 4 minutes on each side or until lamb is done. Keep warm.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-heat heat. Add eggplant and sauté for 3 minutes. Remove from pan. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in pan; add onion and cook 7 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms; cook 3 minutes. Stir in eggplant and vinegar. Remove from heat.

Place 1 tomato slice and 1 patty on each roll half; top each with three-fourths of eggplant mixture. Yield: 4 servings.


Lamb Moussaka

Lamb mixture:

1 1/2 lbs. Lean ground lamb or beef

2 c. chopped onion

Cooking spray

1/2 c. dried currants or raisins

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp. black pepper

4 (14.5-oz.) cans diced tomatoes, undrained

1 large garlic clove, minced


2 c. 1% low-fat milk, divided

1 tbls. butter or stick margarine

3 large egg whites

1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

Remaining ingredients:

2 (1 1/4-lb.) eggplants, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1 tbls. olive oil, divided

1 lb. peeled baking potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1/4 c. (1 oz.) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided

To prepare lamb mixture, cook lamb in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until browned; stir to crumble. Remove from pan; drain. Set aside. Wipe skillet with paper towels.

Add onion to pan coated with cooking spray; sauté 5 minutes. Add lamb, currants and next 7 ingredients (currants through garlic); bring to a boil. Cook until thick (about 30 minutes).

Preheat broiler.

To prepare sauce, cook 1 1/2 cups milk and butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat to 180 deg. or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Remove from heat. Combine 1/2 cup milk, egg whites, flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl; gradually add the hot milk mixture to the egg white mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan and cook until thick (about 15 minutes), stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Place half of eggplant slices on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and brush with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil. Broil 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Repeat procedure with remaining eggplant and 1 1/2 teaspoons oil.

Preheat oven to 375 deg.

Cook potato slices in boiling water 5 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Rinse with cold water; drain well.

Arrange potatoes in the bottom of a 13x9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange half the eggplant slices over potatoes. Pour 4 cups lamb mixture over eggplant and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon cheese. Arrange remaining eggplant over cheese and top with remaining lamb mixture. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon cheese. Spread sauce over cheese and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cheese. Bake at 375 deg. for 45 minutes or until top is golden brown. Let stand 15 minutes..