LEWISTON – It takes a special person to feed the men and women who use their time and expertise to fight fires. Steve Goodwin of Lewiston is a cook during his shifts at the Westbrook Fire Department, where he’s a captain and knows what it takes to feed large, hungry groups.

“I usually cook for between 12 to as many as 18 people,” Goodwin said. “For that size group, I love to make soups, stews, chili, casseroles and one of the recipes I am submitting, spicy spaghetti. They absolutely love that one. I get the most compliments for my corn chowder and turkey stew, and fish chowder. The other thing I like to bake is cookies. I usually have them for dessert at lunchtime. I have been called Captain Cookie before. I always make a double batch, and the firefighters munch on them all day. And they are usually gone before supper.”

Goodwin said his parents were an inspiration for his early cooking, especially since they raised him and his siblings “to cook, clean, do laundry, dishes, bathrooms and so on. My senior year at Edward Little High School, I only needed three classes so I was out of school before lunch. I would come home and make lunch for my dad (a self-employed machinist) and me by experimenting with leftovers and adding different ingredients. Some were good, some we had to choke down, but I learned what flavors and spices go together. Plus, my dad and I are both still alive so they could not have been too bad! My mom and dad – two great people, I might add – always grocery-shop and cook together, so it just came natural to me.”

After graduating, Goodwin kept increasing his cooking skills.

“I really started cooking well and for a pretty good-size group in the Air Force. I was in the fire department in the U.S. Air Force, and the married men in the fire station had to pay for military food. If you know anything about military food, especially in the ’70s, it is not worth paying for. So the married guys would pay me to buy the groceries and prepare them the meal instead. Also, I did not like having to pay for birthday cakes so I took a cake-decorating class. It eventually led to me making my own wedding cake (for my second marriage) and anniversary cakes (for my parents’ 40th and 50th anniversaries) and so on. I have catered – along with my dad, mom, sister and nephew – a few family reunions, which have 75 to 85 people attending.”

Goodwin said, “I love making people happy, and to see them enjoy my cooking just gives me a great feeling. It also is nice to get compliments.”

His claim to fame is not creating his own recipes, but making others’ recipes his own. “Do not be afraid to experiment with spices and flavors. I like to think of myself like the commercial that used to air on TV with the company that would say: They do not make the products, they make the products better. Well, I do not come up with the recipes, but I alter them, and I think I make them better. Whenever we try a new recipe, my wife and I always discuss what I could do different next time to make it even better. But when it comes to baking you have to follow the directions exactly.”

Goodwin enjoys cooking with his wife, Debbie. They have five grown children and three grandchildren. Over the years, they’ve collected a “bevy of cookbooks” and, if there is a recipe they can’t find, they go online in search of the elusive dish.

Gingerbread trifle
2 cups cold milk

1 package (3.4 ounces) instant, French vanilla pudding mix

7 cups cubed gingerbread cake (recipe below)

¾ cup English toffee bits or almond brickle chips

1 carton (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 maraschino cherry

In a mixing bowl, beat milk and pudding mix on low speed for two minutes. In a 2-quart serving bowl, layer half the cake cubes and pudding. Sprinkle with ½ cup toffee bits. Top with remaining cake and pudding. Spread whipped topping over top; sprinkle with remaining bits. Garnish with cherry. Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

Gingerbread cake
½ cup butter-flavored shortening

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup molasses

¾ cup water

1 egg

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt

In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Add the molasses, water and egg. Combine flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt; add to creamed mixture and beat until combined. Pour into a greased 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Spicy spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

8 ounces sliced pepperoni

1 chopped onion

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon oregano

2 cans (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes

1 pound sun-dried tomato and basil linguine
Parmesan cheese

In a 4-quart pot, cook linguine according to package directions and drain. In a large skillet, heat oil and add mushrooms, pepperoni, onion, garlic and oregano until tender. Add tomatoes and simmer for five minutes. Add linguine and serve immediately. Top with desired amount of Parmesan cheese.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Steve’s notes

Do not substitute regular linguine for the sun-dried tomato and basil linguine, as it becomes too bland. I triple or quadruple this for the firefighters at work.

Crisscross salad
1 pound fresh broccoli, chopped

1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained

2 large tomatoes, chopped

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1 bottle (16 ounces) Italian salad dressing

In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients. Add dressing and toss to coat. Serve immediately or refrigerate for four hours or overnight, stirring occasionally.

Yield: 10 servings

Steve’s note

I doubled this for a family reunion. It serves a lot.

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