From the Kitchen of Cathryn Dunsbergen

This week’s featured cook is Cathryn Dunsbergen. She grew up in Pella and graduated from Pella Community High School and recently graduated from Iowa State University with a major in agriculture and society and a minor in public relations. Cathryn is married to Blake, and on June 10, they celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary. Blake works for Grinnell Mutual as an auditor, and Cathryn is currently a community foods system intern for the summer with Iowa State Extension and Outreach’s Local Foods Program. Prior to her current role, Cathryn has also been a marketing intern for United Suppliers (now WinField United) and also a Young Farmer and Leadership Intern for Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

Cathryn grew up on a family cow-calf operation just north of Pella. Her parents are Beth (L-S third-grade teacher) and Dr. Tim Yoder (veterinarian at Tri-County Veterinary Clinic). She has one brother, Thomas, who lives in Colorado and two younger sisters, Sarah, who is attending dental assistant school at Hawkeye Community College, and Emma, who just completed her freshman year at Pella High School.

Blake and Cathryn Dunsbergen have recently moved to Sully and celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary in June.

Blake grew up in Sully and his parents are Nicole (travel agent) and Tim Dunsbergen (contractor at NorthRidge Estate Builders). He has two younger brothers, Caden, who just completed his freshman year at DMACC, and Carson, who just graduated from L-S this year and plans to attend DMACC in the fall.

Cathryn said she loves cooking and baking. “I have been helping in the kitchen ever since I can remember. I am hoping to start a blog someday about recipes, growing food in your backyard, and more! I’m also hoping to make a cookbook with family recipes … stay tuned!”

At the Dunsbergen home, Cathryn does most of the cooking and baking, and Blake does the majority of the grilling.

When asked about a unique cooking experience, Cathryn replied, “I made extra crunchy fried chicken and beignets in our small apartment kitchen in Ames to surprise Blake. This was a good and bad experience. I had never made fried chicken before, and let’s just say I got flour everywhere and I set off the smoke alarm. Although it was a long process, the chicken turned out really good, and the beignets were super flat but still edible. It was an awesome experience though because I learned how to make fried chicken.”

When asked about a favorite thing her family likes her to make, Cathryn replied, “In the morning during winter break or snow days during high school, I would make homemade poffertjes with straw-berries, coffee, and eggs. It might not seem like much, but that was always my thing. Ever since Blake and I got married, Blake has had a few favorites that I’ve made. They are various quinoa bowls with feta cheese, fried chicken, and chicken a la ling.” She also said, “I recently fell in love with baking bread. I love making cinnamon rolls, calzones, biscuits … I love it all.”

Cathryn learned to cook and bake mainly from her family but also by purchasing and trying out recipes in various cookbooks. At a very young age, she was introduced to the kitchen and never looked back. “My grandpa taught me how to make guacamole when I was very young (one of my first cooking experiences), my grandma taught me how to make food out of a few ingredients, and my mom taught me the rest! I guess you could say it is in my blood!”

One kitchen tool Cathryn can’t live without is her aprons! “I never cook or bake without one on. They have pockets for anything I need while I am in the kitchen. Also, each one has a special meaning because of the person who gave it to me. I love aprons so much that I have a whole wall dedicated to them in my kitchen!”

“Clean as you go” is Cathryn’s advice on keeping a clean kitchen.  “This may look like rinsing utensils off in the sink after you use a few of them, filling a dishwasher, or putting boxes after used into a trash can.  Also, if possible, have your baking or cooking area near a sink so you can scrape excess flour, food scraps, etc. into there. This makes clean-up a breeze.”

Thanksgiving is Cathryn’s favorite holiday to cook or bake for.  She said, “I didn’t grow up living in the same town with any of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. so during Thanksgiving they come into town for an extended stay, and it’s a ball! A long time ago when my parents moved to Pella, family wasn’t always able to travel in from different states for holidays, so they invited their friends over as well.  Those people who started out as friends turned into family, and they come over as well! Thanksgiving at my parents’ house is crazy, but everyone can finally see each other for at least two days and that’s why it is my favorite holiday to cook for.  I could do without the brussel sprouts though!”

When asked about family traditions, Cathryn said, “I wouldn’t call this a tradition, but a rule in any kitchen I am working in is music always has to be playing. Some of my best memories are singing and dancing to the radio with my mom and sisters in the kitchen. Growing up, my family never really had any family traditions except on holidays:  putting the Christmas tree up together, a giant Easter egg hunt (yes, we do it as adults, too), and always having a relish tray at any holiday get-together. We are starting a new tradition, though, by having Sunday lunch on both the Yoder side and the Dunsbergen side.”

Some of the Dunsbergens’ favorite restaurants are The Café in Ames, In’t Veld Meat Market’s Deli in Pella, The Peppertree at the Depot Crossing in Grinnell, and Jason’s Deli in West Des Moines. Cathryn’s favorite place to get groceries is the Sully Locker & Market. “I always try to buy local or homegrown first.  I also really like going to Fareway in Pella because they supported my family during our years in 4-H, and I also like going to Hy-Vee for the vegetables and fruit.”

Cathryn enjoys taking walks, traveling, landscaping, boating, cooking and baking, playing board games, and spending time with friends and family. She also said, “I am currently not part of any clubs or organizations within the community because we recently moved here, but I am excited to get involved!”

Cathryn is sharing three recipes with us this week. She loves the recipe for Strawberry Jalapeno Salsa. “It is great to take to parties or family meals during the summer.  My mom makes this as a starter for her parties in the summer.” BBQ Meatballs is the second recipe Cathryn is sharing, and she said these are her absolute favorite. “Pair them with a Caesar salad, fruit, and some rice, and you are good to go.  This recipe is also a great choice for a freezer meal! When I was in college, my mom made these for me, and it saved me from going to the grocery store several times.” The third recipe is for Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake. “This recipe is a staple at my mom and dad’s house during the summertime. We pair a big slice of the sheet cake/brownie with vanilla bean ice cream and a cup of coffee. It’s super easy to make and a fan favorite even for those who don’t like chocolate.”


Strawberry and Jalapeno Salsa – Cathryn Dunsbergen

1 c. strawberries, chopped

1/4 c. red onion, finely chopped

1 medium jalapeno

1 Tbsp. cilantro

1 Tbsp. orange juice

1-1/2 tsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix and enjoy!


BBQ Meatballs – Cathryn Dunsbergen

1 c. evaporated milk

3 lb. hamburger

2 c. quick oatmeal

2 eggs

1 c. onion chopped

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. chili powder


1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1-1/2 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. chopped onion

2 Tbsp. liquid smoke

Mix and shape into balls the size of a walnut (or bigger). Place in flat pan, only one layer to each pan. Then make sauce, dissolve and pour over meatballs and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.


Chocolate Sheet Cake, Texas Style – Cathryn Dunsbergen

2 c. flour

2 c. sugar

2 sticks (8 oz.) butter, cut up

1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 c. buttermilk or sour cream

2 eggs

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Chocolate Pecan Icing (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 10x15-inch jelly-roll pan. In a medium bowl, combine flour and sugar; set aside. In a medium saucepan, mix together margarine, cocoa, add one cup water. Heat to boiling over medium heat, stirring often. Pour over flour and sugar mixture. Add buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, and vanilla, mix to blend well. Turn batter into prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately frost top of hot cake with Chocolate Pecan Icing. Let cool, then cut into 24 squares.

Chocolate Pecan Icing

1 stick (4 oz.) margarine, softened

1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/3 c. milk

1 (1-pound) box powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. chopped pecans (we do not use these)

In a medium bowl, beat together margarine, cocoa, and milk with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat on high speed until well blended. Stir in pecans.

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