Ogle enjoys experimenting in the kitchen

Jerilyn VanDeWoestyne
Diana Ogle gets a little help from her granddaughter, Ava, in the kitchen of her rural Geneseo home.

According to Diana Ogle of Geneseo, her favorite thing about cooking and spending time in the kitchen is just to have fun with food.

“I like to cook and I always have I guess, but what I like most about it is creating fun and interesting things with food,” she said. “I don’t do anything fancy, I just like to do the fun things.”

Cooking is definitely a hobby for Diana, who laughs that her mother always told her not to play with her food. “But that’s what I like to do. I like to do things like penguin decorated favors made of hard boiled eggs, olives and carrots. Or making little deviled egg ‘chicks’ for Easter dinner,” she said. “I like to do creative things like that.”

Diana says one of her favorite things to do is to make cute little edible appetizers or she might use them as individual favors at one of her holiday dinners. “I love to decorate each persons plate with something special,” she said. “That’s what I love most about cooking — making special little treats.”

For Thanksgiving favors she might place a peanut butter cup upside down on a cookie and decorate it to resemble a pilgrim hat.

“Or for my daughter’s baby shower, I made a watermelon baby buggy fruit basket with orange slices for the wheels,” she said. “It was fun to do and turned out great. I had to be really careful with the buggy handle so it wouldn’t break.”

Diana said she gets ideas for her “treats” from magazines or newspapers. “I’ll see something in a magazine and think ‘I can do that’ and then I might revise it a little to make it something I can do,” she said. “Like I said I love to work and play with food.”

Diana and her husband, Don, have been married almost 40 years and have two daughters and sons-in-law, Alissa and Greg Ryner and Andrea and Jason Rusk, all of Geneseo. Her grandchildren, who play a very important part of her life, are Lindsey, 19, Rachel, 7, Andrew, 5, and Ava, 1-1/2.

Diana is a school crossing guard and also spends most of her day with her 1-1/2 year old granddaughter, Ava, whom she babysits. “We have a great time together,” she said, adding she has always babysat with her grandchildren and feels lucky to have been able to do that.

Family is very important to Diana. “Without them what would you have?

“I love my grandkids and I like to do special things for them like making treats for them to take to school,” Diana said.

Growing up in Moline, Diana said she always helped her mother in the kitchen. “My mom is a good cook and I come from a big family so I helped her do some of the cooking,” Diana said, adding she also took home economics classes in high school. “I guess I’m pretty much self taught as far as cooking. And I like to do different kinds of things.”

At one time Diana took a Wilton Cake Decorating class and said she still has all the cake decorating supplies — pans, tips, tubes, colors. “I don’t do it very often any more but I do like to do special things for my family for birthdays and special occasions,” she said. “I especially like to do holiday food and make creative treats.”

Holidays are very special times for Diana. “Christmas we have a big breakfast, usually with Victorian French toast and egg casseroles,” she said. “Then I will either have half a grapefruit with a maraschino cherry in the center or a fruit bowl, or maybe fruit soup since I have a son-in-law who loves that.”

Christmas is a big event at the Ogle home. “We always have fortune poppers as a favor at the Christmas dinner table,” she laughs, adding the poppers are filled with confetti. “We might have confetti in our food, but it’s fun.” The poppers, Diana explains, have fortunes inside, so they all enjoy listening to each others fortune-telling. “Everyone always has a favor, and we all wear Christmas hats for just a little added celebration.”

Diana said her family always gathers for every holiday. “Easter is crazy,” she laughs. “I love to try decorating different things. We always have an Easter egg hunt and then a treasure hunt. I have a table of goodies and the grandkids get to pick what they want.”

Creating memories is something Diana feels is very important. “I try to make it something they will remember,” she said. “I hope they will remember these things and eventually make their own special memories.”

As far as the holiday menu is concerned, Diana said they usually have all the traditional items. “I have one son-in-law who likes sweet potato pie and a granddaughter who loves ‘green fluff’. That’s what we call a salad made with pistachio pudding, crushed pineapple and Cool Whip,” she said. “So the menu usually includes those items.”

Diana knows her family’s favorite dishes and tries to have them on any family dinner menu.

Whether it’s indoors or out, Diana enjoys decorating. Her lawn decorations change with the season and the holiday and she says she has storage areas filled with an assortment of accessories and trinkets for decorating. “I love to do seasonal decorating and I often go to garage sales to see what kind of fun things I can find,” she laughs. “My family often teases me about that — but I still do it.”

A “spruced up” gourd, decorated with fall flowers, along with a mini pumpkin “spider” are displayed on a kitchen counter. “I love to do things like that,” she said. “I have a room full of crafty things.”

If she had to choose a favorite meal for her husband and herself, Diana said it would probably be a simple meatloaf with baked potato, hot rolls and a vegetable. “Or maybe a pot roast dinner, that is also a favorite,” she said. “My kids love my lasagna, but I really don’t do anything different. It’s just something they really like.”

Although she hasn’t worked with yeast products a lot, Diana said her goal is to attempt it. “I’d like to learn to do things like homemade bread and rolls,” she said. “I’m working on it.”

Diana likes to try new recipes and says she will usually look over a new recipe first to see if it is something she would  like to try. “I look at what the recipe calls for and then decide if it’s something I’ll try,” she said. Adding she has learned that if a recipe calls for a certain ingredient to be sure and use it.

“If a recipe calls for butter, don’t replace it with margarine. It just won’t be the same,” she advised, adding she enjoys looking through cookbooks for new and different recipes.

“Or I just steal recipes from everyone else,” she laughs. “Then I try to personalize them.”

Presentation is definitely something Diana thinks about when preparing a meal. “I love setting the table, especially for holidays or birthdays,” she said.  “I have Thanksgiving and Christmas dishes — I’ve really got a ton of dishes that I use to set the table with on holidays. Or I might use a white place setting and then add some kind of fancier or printed salad plate.”

Diana says her grandchildren, especially the seven and five-year-olds, love to help her set her table.

“I want the food to almost look too good to eat,” she laughs. “That’s what I’m aiming for, and that’s what the kids say sometimes. I think they appreciate it.”

Garnishing is important to Diana also. “I’ve got to have parsley, pimento and carrots to garnish with,” she said.

Birthdays are fun times for Diana, who says she tries to do something special for the honoree. “I usually get the girls flowers and we might do a brunch,” she said.

When she recently received a bag of apples, Diana said she spent a lot of time canning and freezing the fall fruit, including canning apple pie filling and making apple butter. “I just can’t stand to have any kind of produce go to waste. I have to take care of it,” she said. “I make the apple butter in the crock pot. You just add spices to the peeled and cored apples and let it cook for a couple of days. The house smells so good when you’re cooking things like that.”

Diana said the apple pie filling she cans is ready to put into a pie crust right out of the jar. “It makes making a pie really quick and easy,” she said. “And that’s what I like to do as much as possible in cooking — quick and easy things.”

Besides apples, Diana cans tomatoes, freezes sweet corn and cans green beans. “There is nothing like opening up a jar of home canned green beans or tomatoes in the middle of winter,” she said.

Her backyard garden provides lots of fresh produce throughout the summer. “The grandkids love to watch the vegetables grow. They love it when the tomatoes start to grow on the vine,” she said, adding she has a salsa garden which includes tomatoes, peppers, and onions. “And I also have carrots because the grandkids love them.”

Diana said she cans or freezes whatever vegetables she grows in the garden.

Diana said her husband gets in on some cooking also. The couple are members of Geneseo Moose Lodge and Don helps cook Sunday breakfasts served at the Moose. “He’s the bacon man,” she said. “It’s a lot of work but he loves it.”

Since she admits she doesn’t care much for cleanup, Diana says her husband also often helps her with that chore, something she appreciates. “It’s fun to cook, but I hate doing the dishes,” she laughs.

Diana likes to entertain, especially doing things like small luncheons. “When I do that I like to make favors for my guests,” she said.

She says she usually cooks from scratch, although admits some convenient things are nice. “Cornbread just doesn’t taste the same from a box though,” Diana said.

Finding cooking fun and exciting, Diana said she enjoys it “as long as I can have fun with it,” she said. “I’m not intimidated by trying something different. I like to do that.”

Diana also enjoys being a homemaker. “It’s important to keep things running smoothly,” she said. “This is what I do. You’ve got to make something out of what you’re given in life.”

The fact that she is a talented and caring homemaker is obvious when entering Diana’s home. The comfortable dwelling is decorated with her many collections, from the porcelain Victorian dolls she loves to collect to the many baskets that add an additional quaint touch.

“I like to cook all kinds of things, but I’m really better with the fun stuff,” Diana said. “I guess I just like the whimsical kinds of things.”

Diana Ogle shares some of her favorite recipes.

Jello popcorn balls

Diana Ogle

1 C. margarine

1-1/3 C. sugar

1-3 oz. box Jello (any flavor)

1/2 C. Karo syrup (white)

4 qt. popcorn

Melt margarine, sugar, Jello and syrup.

Boil for three minutes. Pour over popcorn.

Shape into balls when cool.

Orange and grape flavored Jello are good for Halloween.

Makes 8-10.

Note: “I put in baggies with spiders or candy corn.”

Taffy apple salad

Diana Ogle

4-5 Granny Smith apples, chopped

Mix in saucepan:

1/2 C. sugar

1 small can crushed pineapple, don’t drain

1 egg

1 T. flour

2 T. cider vinegar

Cook until thick. Cool.

Once cooled fold in:


1/4 C. crushed peanuts

8 oz. Cool Whip

Sprinkle 1/4 C. crushed peanuts on top of salad.

Pumpkin pie salad

Diana Ogle

1 large box instant vanilla pudding

1 small can pumpkin pie mix

2 small Cool Whip containers

3 C. miniature marshmallows

1 t. cinnamon

Mix well and chill.

Victorian French toast

Diana Ogle

1 C. brown sugar

1/3 C. butter or margarine

2 T. corn syrup (Karo)

4 slices Texas toast or 6 slices French toast

5 eggs

1-1/2 C. milk

1 t. cinnamon

strawberries, raspberries, peaches, etc. (optional)

powdered sugar

In a small saucepan cook and stir, sugar, butter and syrup until butter is melted.

Pour in bottom of ungreased 12x7 1/2” baking dish.

Arrange bread in single layer on top of sugar mixture.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs, milk and cinnamon.

Pour over bread.

Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.

Remove cover. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Top with fruit and powdered sugar is desired.

Note to readers: The Republic would appreciate any nominations from readers for area cooks to be featured in the weekly “What’s Cooking” column. Nominations may be sent to Geneseo Republic, Attn: Jerilyn VanDeWoestyne, 108 W. First St., Geneseo, IL 61254; or phone (309) 944-2119.