Retired school cook enjoys spending time in her kitchen

Jerilyn VanDeWoestyne
Rose Moller enjoys cooking in the kitchen of her rural Geneseo home.

Rose Moller of rural Geneseo has enjoyed cooking and spending time in the kitchen since she was a young girl helping to cook for her siblings.

“I’m the oldest girl of 13 siblings, so I spent a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and helping my mother,” she said, adding she probably began cooking at the age of 6 or 7. “It’s just something I’ve always done and I’ve always enjoyed it.”

Rose remembers making fried egg sandwiches for her father and brothers. “They really liked those sandwiches,” she laughs, noting she also did the laundry and cleaning. “I had a lot of responsibilities.”

With such a large family, Rose said she cooked big meals. “It was always meat, potatoes and vegetable. I did a lot of potatoes, big roasts, lots of steak and lots of eggs,” she said. “There were usually 13 of us at the dinner table.”

Rose grew up on a farm near Annawan where they raised their own chickens and had their own milk. “We always had plenty of beef and pork that my dad had raised, and we had a big garden,” she said. “I did a lot of canning and freezing, and I still like to do it.”

This past summer Rose said she froze about 150 quarts of sweet corn. “This is the first time I’ve

had a garden in about 10 years. I really like to garden,” she said, adding she divided up the frozen sweet corn with her children. “My kids and grandkids love the sweet corn so I like to share with them.”

Rose said besides sweet corn her garden included all the regular vegetables. “I also love to flower garden,” she said.

Rose and her husband, Richard, reside in a  modified A-frame home that they built almost entirely by themselves. The home sits at the base of a U-shaped lake and is surrounded on three sides by a fantastic view of the natural habitat of area wildlife.

“We’ve been in our new home a little over two years and we love it,” Rose said. “At one time, our current garage was our house,, and we lived there while we built this house. We had the house framed, and then we took over. I did a lot of staining and varnishing woodwork.”

Last summer, Rose said, they installed a generator at the home. “The generator will heat or cool the whole house,” she said. “It’ll run everything and that’s pretty important when we are this far out.”

Her family also includes sons and daughters-in-law, Mike and Kim Cathelyn of Geneseo and Cory and Michelle Cathelyn of Annawan; a daughter, Tina Cathelyn of Annawan, and grandchildren Kelsey, Kiersten, Maddie and Jake.

“I really like to babysit with the grandkids every time I get the chance,” Rose said.

Cooking has pretty much always been a part of Rose’s life. Besides cooking for her family, she spent “20 plus” years as head cook for the Annawan School District, taking various sanitation courses through the years.

“I really liked my job. I did the menu planning, ordering, and I always did the vegetables and fruit that we served at lunch,” she said. “I learned a lot from Dorothy Wolf, who was head cook before me. She taught me a lot about government forms and regulations.”

The cafeteria regularly served students homemade cinnamon rolls, which Rose prepared. “We did five batches when we baked the rolls because the kids loved them,” she said. “Then once a month I did the cinnamon rolls for the faculty.”

When planning the menus, Rose said she would first check what they had for government commodities and go from there. “I retired as head cook three years ago. I’m enjoying retirement but I do miss the kids and my co-workers,” she said.

As far as cooking is concerned, Rose said she likes to do it all — whether baking or cooking a complete meal for family or friends.

A favorite meal of Rose and her husband’s is goulash, which Rose prepares by first browning hamburger and onion, then adding tomatoes, V8 juice and cooked elbow macaroni. “Sometimes we have that with just garlic bread,” she said.

One of her husband’s favorite meals, Rose said, are chicken tacos. “I just brown the cooked, diced chicken, add chicken taco seasoning and a little water and serve it like tacos in taco shells with all the favorite toppings like shredded lettuce, shredded Mexican cheese, tomatoes, onions, sour cream and salsa,” she said. “It’s a quick and easy meal.”

They also do a lot of grilling outdoors when the weather gets a little more cooperative. “We do burgers, steaks, brats, hot dogs, chicken, and barbecued ribs,” she said. “And I love to do baked potatoes on the grill. I just scrub the potatoes, then rub the skin with a little olive oil and sprinkle them with parmesan cheese, wrap them in foil and throw them on the grill for about an hour. They are so good on the grill.”

Since they live several miles from town, Rose likes to keep her pantry well stocked and says the Lazy Susan in her cupboard is her indicator of when supplies are running low. “I can look at my cupboard and see at a glance what supplies I need,” she said. “I usually have the staples on hand that I need to prepare a meal.”

Rose said she usually follows a recipe pretty closely. “If the recipe says ‘sift’ the flour, I definitely sift,” she said. “I measured the flour in a recipe before I sifted one time and then after I had sifted it and I had 1/2 C. more flour after sifting, so it can really make a difference in a recipe.”

She also only uses Gold Medal flour (“because it just works the best”) and if a recipe calls for butter, she always uses butter, no substitutes. “If you don’t use butter, it gives the recipe a completely different taste and it doesn’t turn out as well,” she advises.

“And I also only use Nestle’s chocolate chips in my chocolate chip cookies. I like to use the best possible ingredients.”

When her family gets together Rose likes to have some of their favorite foods on hand. “A family favorite is my banana cream pie so I like to make that when they come, then I send any leftovers home with them,” she said, adding she enjoys making desserts.

“Scotcheroos are another favorite of the grandkids and they like sugar cookies, brownies and Magic Cookie Bars made with a graham cracker crust, sprinkled with chocolate chips, nuts and coconut and covered with sweetened condensed milk then baked,” Rose said. “My daughter says she hasn’t found anything that I make that she doesn’t like.”

Christmas Eve is usually spent at Rose’s home with her children and grandchildren gathered together. “We have ham, cheesy potatoes, salads, pies and sometimes appetizers,” she said.

“And we have to have cheesy corn casserole that the grandkids just love. It’s made with both whole kernel and creamed corn, elbow macaroni, butter and Velveeta cheese and baked till the macaroni is done.”

For this year’s Christmas Eve dinner, the dessert included a banana cream pie, of course, and two Bishop’s pies. “The Bishop’s pies are so simple. You just mix a cup of milk with two cups of softened vanilla ice cream and a package of instant chocolate pudding mix, put it in a graham cracker crust, cover it with Cool Whip and sprinkle it with shaved chocolate,” she said.

New Year’s Day is spent with Rose’s siblings at her sister’s home in Annawan. “That is our annual get together. There are always at least 50 of us and everyone brings something,” she said. “We’ve done that for a lot of years.”

Rose said she is probably most well known for her pies and desserts. “I like to try new recipes also. I found a recipe recently for Grasshopper Cake and I took that to our New Year’s Day dinner and we all liked it,” she said, laughing that she got the recipe from an Andes mint display at Menard’s. “You never know where you’re going to find a good recipe.”

Her favorite kitchen appliance, without a doubt, is her stand mixer. “I’ve had that Mix Master mixer for over 30 years and it still works wonderful,” she laughs. “I don’t know what I would do without it. It’s my original mixer.”

In her new kitchen Rose has an appliance garage that houses her mixer, coffee maker and toaster. “I love it,” she said. “I can put all those things in one place and then close the door to it. It keeps everything nice and neat.”

Rose likes to eat out occasionally but said she generally cooks every day. “I like to do it. I usually cook from scratch, mostly because of the flavor, taste and the fact that you know what is going into the food you prepare,” she said.

During the cold weather months,  Rose likes to do homemade soups. “I like to do vegetable beef and chicken noodle soup and I especially like to do chili,” she said. “Sometimes I use deer meat rather than ground beef in the chili.”

Rose’s secret ingredient that adds extra spice to her chili is Bloody Mary mix. “I just brown the meat with onion, add tomatoes, a packet of McCormick’s chili mix, tomato juice, Brook’s chili beans (it has to be Brook’s), and about half a bottle of the Bloody Mary mix,” she said. “That gives the chili a really good flavor and it’s really got all the spices you need.”

Rose likes the challenge of cooking and creating but admits cooking really isn’t much of a challenge for her any more. “It’s easy. I’ve done it for so many years, it just comes naturally.”

Her favorite part of cooking, she said, is when people comment on having a good meal. “That’s my reward.”

Rose Moller shares some of her favorite recipes.

Chocolate chip cookies

Rose Moller

3/4 C. sugar

1 C. brown sugar

1 C. butter (no substitutes)

1 T. vanilla

2 eggs, slightly beaten

3 C. flour

3/4 t. soda

3/4 t. salt

3 C. chocolate chips

In large bowl, combine white and brown sugar, add butter and cream mixture. Add vanilla and eggs, mix well. In separate bowl sift flour, soda and salt together. Add dry mixture to creamed mixture. Mix well. Add chocolate chips. Dough will be stiff.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or waxed paper. Using small ice cream scoop, drop dough on cookie sheets. Press dough down slightly.

Bake at 350 degrees 10 to 12 minutes.

Sugar cookies

Rose Moller

1-1/2 C. sifted powdered sugar

1 C. butter (no substitutes)

1 egg

1 t. vanilla

1/2 t. almond extract

2-1/2 C. flour

1 t. soda

1 t. cream of tarter

Cream butter and sugar. Mix in egg and flavorings. Blend in dry ingredients. Refrigerate 2-3 hours. Divide dough in half and roll out on lightly floured pastry cloth. Cut out desired cookie shapes.

Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees 7-8 minutes.

Barbecue wings

Rose Moller

12 wings (2-2-1/2 lbs.)

1/2 C. barbecue sauce

1/2 C. honey

1/2 C. soy sauce

Combine barbecue sauce, honey and soy sauce in bowl. Place wings in a 9x13 inch baking pan. Pour sauce over wings and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

Grasshopper cake

Rose Moller

1 devil’s food cake mix

16 oz. whipped topping

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 pkgs. (4.67 oz.) Andes thin mints

Prepare cake as directed on box. Bake as directed for two 8 or 9 inch layers. Cool cakes thoroughly before frosting.


In a large bowl with mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Slowly add whipped topping. Shave 1/2 C. mints for topping. Chop the rest of the box of mints and mix into frosting.

Frost middle and sides of cakes. Put shaved curls of mints  on top. Refrigerate.