GREENE – Louise LeBrun likes flavor. And whenever friends and family come to her home, they expect to sample tasty foods, flavored with onions and other seasonings.

She said her friends are always telling her, “You should open your own place.”

“I wouldn’t want to have to do it,” says LeBrun. “I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it as much.”

Her father and father-in-law are among LeBrun’s biggest fans. Since their wives have died, she often invites them over for family meals. “They never go home empty-handed, and say, ‘You make it look so easy,'” says this Cook of the Week, who not only enjoys cooking but is generous with advice when asked.

It’s not unusual for her dad to call and ask, “What do I do with this?”

“Play with it. … Add a little of this,” she suggests, noting one of his favorite dishes, her sweet shepherd’s pie, came about thanks to an extra ingredient. She had a sweet potato that needed to be used so she added it to the usual potato mixture and ended up with a tasty new dish.

Does she have any advice for new cooks? “I always use butter with baking even if it calls for shortening,” she says. Her thought on shortening is that it’s just one step away from being “plastic.”

While she loves watching others eat the food she prepares, LeBrun says she doesn’t like anyone to be in her way while she’s cooking. Try peeking and you’re likely to hear, “Stay out of my pots.”

A resident of Greene, LeBrun is an administrative assistant with TD Banknorth and is completing a course in verbal communications. She and her husband, Denis, love being outdoors, whether it’s snowmobiling, working in the yard, going to the beach or camping.

LeBrun also cooks when they go camping, using foil to grill meats and vegetables. “We eat well,” she says.

Sweet shepherd’s pie
Ingredients:
1 onion, medium, chopped

2 pounds ground beef

½ stick plus 2 tablespoons butter

½ cup milk

2 white potatoes, medium

1 sweet potato, large

1 can (15.5 ounces) cream style corn

1 can (15.5 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained

½ teaspoon Southwest Seasoning
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Method:
Peel the potatoes and boil them together until tender. While potatoes are boiling, stir-fry chopped onion in the 2 tablespoons of butter on medium-high heat until translucent. Add ground beef to onion and brown along with the Southwest Seasoning and pepper until ground beef is no longer pink, drain. Place ground beef in a 2½ quart casserole dish. Top cooked ground beef with the can of drained whole kernel corn and top that with the can of cream style corn. Drain cooked potatoes and mash with the ½ stick of butter and ½ cup of milk, plus salt and pepper to your liking. (You may add more milk if you like softer consistency for the potatoes.) Place mashed potatoes on top of corn. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for half hour.
Louise’s notes:
For an added crispness, a small can of French’s french-fried onions can be placed on top of the potatoes while baking.

Also, the potato mixture is a great side dish to go with baked ham or prime rib.
Camp potatoes
Ingredients:
4 potatoes, medium, washed and cut into bite-size pieces (leave the skin on)

1 onion, large, chopped

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

½ teaspoon pepper

Sprinkle of salt

3 tablespoons butter
½ to ¾ cup water
Method:
Melt butter at medium-high heat and let it start to brown in frying skillet. Add onion and potatoes all at once. As if making regular home fries, stir-fry potatoes and let them catch on the bottom of the pan and stir-fry again and let them catch again. Do this process for about 15 minutes.

Once potatoes have browned some, add seasonings and butter and stir-fry one more time to mix seasonings with the potatoes. Add the water and stir-fry one more time. Turn heat to simmer and cover potatoes letting them steam until tender, roughly 30 minutes. You can stir- fry them one more time before they are completely done.
Louise’s notes:
I very rarely salt when I cook but you can add more salt if you like.

For a main-dish variation to these potatoes, you can substitute a can or two of chicken or turkey gravy for the water and, once the potatoes are tender, add some leftover chicken or turkey.
Pineapple carrot cake
Ingredients:
2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1¾ cups brown sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups shredded carrots

1 cup flaked coconut
1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch pan.

In large mixing bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Make a well in the center and add in order: sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat with wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in carrots, coconut and pineapple until well-blended. Pour in greased and floured pan and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Cool, then frost with cream cheese frosting
Cream cheese frosting
Ingredients:
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

¼ cup butter, softened

2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

½ teaspoon vanilla
Milk, if needed
Frosting method:
Beat softened cream cheese with softened butter. Beat in sifted confectioners’ sugar with vanilla. Add 2 teaspoons milk, if necessary to get a spreading consistency.
Louise’s note:
I usually leave the butter and cream cheese at room temperature for a couple of hours or longer to let them get soft enough to work with.


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