Vandersnick made dinner for country’s Diamond Rio

Jerilyn VanDeWoestyne
Maribeth Vandersnick is shown in the kitchen of her Atkinson home.

Country music accompanies Maribeth Vandersnick almost everywhere she goes whether baking a pie in the beautiful kitchen of her Atkinson home or working in her garage. She has even been known to enjoy the music while cleaning stalls in the horse barn.

She and her husband, Herb, will celebrate their 48th wedding anniversary next month and while Maribeth has always enjoyed cooking she notes her cooking has changed through the  years.

Their family includes two daughters, Lisa of Texas, and Brenda and son-in-law Charlie Lotridge of Atkinson.

“My girls never grew up on ‘quick’ meals,” Maribeth said. “I didn’t work outside the home so I had the time to prepare meals and we always had meat,  mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetable and dessert, usually pie.”

Her daughters have told her one of their biggest memories is coming home from school to homemade cupcakes or cookies. “I always liked having things like that on hand for them,” she said.

Maribeth adds now when she bakes something she and her husband might have a piece and then Herb might take the rest to work. “It’s sometimes difficult to cook for just two people, but I still like to do it,” she said.

Maribeth said she and Herb are both country music fans, but their acquaintance with the country music group Diamond Rio is much more of a friendship than just being members of their fan club.

“We actually were, however, the first members of the Diamond Rio fan club and that started back in the early 90s when they were first starting out,” she recalls. “We have become good friends and even had them to dinner here about four years ago when the group was performing at the Bureau County Fair in Princeton. We invited them here for a homecooked meal and they came.”

The friendship began because Maribeth said she “just loved” a song they recorded called ‘Meet In the Middle.’ “The first time we saw them live was at the ball park in Davenport, and since that time we’ve often traveled quite a distance to attend their concerts,” she said, adding she often has taken things like homebaked sugar cookies to concerts with her. “And we’ve always been given backstage passes for their concerts.”

Noting all the members of the group are “just nice, ordinary people”, Maribeth said they are really good personal friends and the friendship began because she and Herb liked their music.

“It’s been fun,” she said.

Maribeth, who has designed shirts for her husband,  has even designed several shirts for Diamond Rio that they wore when performing at concerts. “Herb had on a shirt that I had designed one time when we saw them and they liked it so much I told them I would do the same for them,” Maribeth laughs. “They got me their sizes and color choices and I designed the shirts for them.”

One year, Maribeth and Herb were thrilled when they were honored on stage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville for being so supportive of the group. They were presented with a large plaque featuring photos of each member of the group. “We treasure that plaque,” Maribeth said, adding they even went to the Super Bowl one year when Diamond Rio entertained at a Super Bowl party.

They have also gone to Fan Fair, an annual country music celebration, in Nashville several times.

For the dinner she served Diamond Rio, Maribeth said she had grilled pork loins, lasagna (“Because I thought some people might not like pork.”), homemade applesauce, twice baked potatoes, fresh green beans, fresh tomatoes, spinach salad, and for dessert, homemade apple walnut pie. “Everything was pretty much homegrown and you can’t believe how they ate!” she said. “I wanted to keep the meal as homemade and as homegrown as I could.”

And during the group’s performance at Bureau County Fair, they announced what a good meal they had and talked onstage about the homemade applesauce. “That was a thrill for us,” Maribeth said, adding they still keep in touch with the group.

Maribeth and her husband have been involved with raising and showing Quarter horses for many years, attending shows and sales regularly. “Sometimes we had to hurry back from a horse show in order to go to a concert,” she laughs.

Both Maribeth and Herb grew up in Atkinson and graduated from Atkinson High School. She said she learned the basics of cooking from her mother, the late Gladys Buysse, and still remembers helping out with cooking duties when she was a girl, especially one time when her mother had been called to jury duty during a busy farm season. “We had hay balers and someone had to do the cooking,” she laughs, recalling that was when she made her first coconut cream pie.

Since that time Maribeth has learned to very much enjoy making homemade pies. “I guess that’s probably what people know me best for,” she said.

Making homemade pie crust, Maribeth said one of her more popular pies is probably a chocolate cream. “I made a fresh peach pie recently and Herb and I had a piece then he took the rest to our nephew Jason Minnaert. Peach pie is his favorite.”

If she’s making a fresh apple pie, she said she always uses either yellow delicious apples or Jonathan, if they’re available.

Maribeth said usually for their birthday each family member gets their favorite pie. She said the key to a good pie crust is in rolling it out.

“I like to make pies, but I don’t like the mess. I’ve found, though,  if you roll the crust out on a floured flour sack towel you eliminate the mess,” she said. “Just shake out the towel when you’re done. It works every time. It has to be a flour sack towel, though, they are a thinner towel.”

When Maribeth entertains she really likes to prepare the entire meal herself. “And I don’t bake pies  until the day of the dinner,” she said. “I want it to be as fresh as possible. I don’t want anything that might be stale.” Even when preparing a holiday meal, Maribeth said she will get up early in order to make everything fresh. “I guess that’s why I get rushed in the morning when entertaining,” she laughs. “I have to get up pretty early in order to get everything done, but that’s the way I like it.”

Maribeth said her family likes things like beef stew or Swiss steak that she prepares by pounding serving size pieces of round steak with four, salt and pepper, browning the meat in a skillet, adding a can of cream of mushroom soup and then putting it in the oven to bake until fork tender.

“One of our favorite meals, but one I don’t fix nearly as much as I used to, is pan fried chicken,” she said. To prepare the chicken she puts some Crisco oil and about a quarter stick of butter in a pan, rolls the chicken in a flour, salt and pepper mixture, then browns the chicken well on all sides. “Then? I put it in the oven at about 325 degrees until it’s done,” she said, laughing that her daughters even remember the pan she always made the favorite chicken dinner in.

Maribeth adds the chicken is almost always served with mashed potatoes and gravy and corn.

The pan fried chicken recipe came from her mother, whom Maribeth said raised her own chickens. “Mom always would get the chickens to about three pounds and she said that was about perfect for frying chicken,” she said.

She also follows her mothers method of getting poultry ready to cook. “When I buy a chicken, I always take it out of the package and put it in ice water in the refrigerator overnight until it’s really chilled good,” she said. “That’s what my mother always did. I don’t know why, but it makes the chicken a lot better. I chill it really good even if I’m going to freeze it.”

Another favorite meal at the Vandersnick home is the Belgian ham and vegetable dish, hutseput. “I always use leftover ham and bone when I make hutseput and I  leave the potatoes whole, I don’t mash them up like some people do,” Maribeth said. “I put shredded cabbage in a big pot of water with the ham and ham bone, then I let it boil for a while and then add the potatoes and carrots.” Maribeth adds the secret to making hutseput is to have a good ham bone.

Remembering her grandmother making baked beans by soaking dry beans overnight, Maribeth said she has found a shortcut, but still uses her grandmother’s recipe. “I start with Randall’s Northern Beans that come in a jar, and then add brown sugar, ketchup and molasses to them,” she said. “My grandmother would soak the beans all night. It was a holiday thing for her and they were so good, but this shortcut recipe is very good also.”

Maribeth notes she is not a gourmet cook and she doesn’t cook spicy food. “I’m just a regular old-fashioned cook,” she laughs, adding there are certain things that she feels just go together naturally. “If I’m serving ham, I will have the baked beans, but if I’m having turkey or chicken, I like to do something like scalloped corn. I don’t know why, I just think those things go well together.”

Cooking is just something Maribeth enjoys doing and her favorite part is pleasing people and being complimented on something she has prepared.

Maribeth Vandersnick shares some of her favorite recipes.

Great northern baked beans

Maribeth Vandersnick

1 jar (48 oz.) Randall northern beans

minced (chopped) onions

3 T. molasses

1 C. brown sugar

1/2 C. ketchup

3-4 slices of bacon (cooked)

Mix together and bake about one hour at 350 degrees.

Note: “The secret to these baked beans is the molasses.”

Elegant ham balls

Maribeth Vandersnick

1 lb. ground pork

2 lb. ground ham

(or 3 lbs. hamburger)

2 eggs

2 C. crushed soda crackers

Combine meat, crumbs, eggs and form into balls and place in greased baking dish.


2 cans undiluted tomato soup

1/2 C. vinegar

3 C. brown sugar

3 T. prepared mustard

1 can pineapple chunks

Combine ingredients for sauce and pour over meatballs and bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.

Baste every 15 minutes.

Pumpkin cookies

Maribeth Vandersnick

1 C. butter

1 C. sugar

1 C. pumpkin

1 egg

1 t. vanilla

2 C. flour

1 t. cinnamon

1 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

Cream butter, sugar, pumpkin, egg and vanilla.

Add rest of ingredients.

Drop by spoonsful onto cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

Cool and frost with powdered sugar frosting.

Frozen Bacardi

Maribeth Vandersnick

1 qt. light rum

3 large cans lemonade (12 oz.)

12 oz. grenadine

9 oz. real lemon juice

15 oz. water

42 oz. 7-Up

Mix and freeze.

Serve like slush.

Fresh peach chiffon pie

Maribeth Vandersnick

2 T. sugar

1-1/2 C. fresh peaches, peeled and sliced

1 pkg. (4 serving size) vanilla pudding and pie filling (not instant)

1 pkg. peach gelatin

1 container whipped topping (Cool Whip) - reserve enough for topping

1 baked pie shell

Add sugar to peaches and let stand about 10 minutes. Drain peaches, reserving syrup.

Add water to syrup to make 1-1/2 C.

Combine pudding mix, gelatin and measured liquid in pan. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil.

Pour into bowl and chill well and fold in whipped topping. and then add peaches.

Spoon into pie shell and chill.

Reserve enough Cool Whip to garnish on top.