LEEDS – For Vickie Hartford, cooking is a family affair. She attributes her love of cooking and her talent in the kitchen to her mother, Rita Hartford. “She always did home-cooked meals, and we grew up having fresh vegetables and ones that we canned ourselves,” said Hartford.

If Hartford ever runs into problems with a recipe, advice is close at hand. Her mom lives next-door. And her father is comfortable in the kitchen, too. In fact, he created the Wild Willy’s rub recipe provided on this page.

“Our family always enjoyed cooking for family events,” Hartford recalled, noting she and her husband have continued that tradition by hosting barbecues at their home. “We like to cook pool and patio foods and salads in the summer,” she said. When the cooler months arrive, they move their family parties indoors, serving casseroles, slow cooker meals and chili.

And it seems the family tradition will continue. “My sons are natural cooks. They’ve picked it up from watching and they like to eat,” Hartford said.

She gets her recipes and inspiration for cooking from family and friends. She named her husband’s favorite lasagna after him, “Girard’s lasagna.” And Lorraine’s famous strawberry nut bread is from her good friend, Lorraine.

The best part of cooking for Hartford is seeing everybody enjoy eating it and having fun. “The worst part about cooking is cleaning up. Home cooking is messy,” she said.

When Hartford isn’t cooking, she expresses her creativity in other ways. “I love painting and art. I do water color and oil painting. That’s what I want to be when I grow up,” she said.

A registered nurse, Hartford has worked at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston for 29 years. She and her husband also own their own business, V&G Home Improvements Inc.

Girard’s lasagna


1 pound sea scallops

Meat of 2 lobsters or 3/4 pound clear lobster meat (cooked)

½ pound crab meat

½ stick butter

¼ cup flour

1 cup light cream

1 cup evaporated milk

2 cups 3-cheese blend of Asiago, Parmesan and Romano cheese, grated

1 teaspoon celery flakes or ¼ teaspoon celery salt

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon pepper white is best

1 package no boil lasagna noodles


Preheat oven to 350. Chop sea scallops into quarters and chop lobster meat into bite size pieces. Place in bowl and toss together with crab meat. Set aside. To make roux for thickening the sauce, melt butter in a small pan. When melted, whisk flour in quickly, enough to form paste consistency. Set aside. In a sauce pan, heat cream and milk to hot. Do NOT boil. Add cheese, whisking constantly until dissolved. Then add roux, whisking thoroughly. Sauce will start to thicken. Add spices to sauce and whisk on low heat for 2-3 minutes, making sure sauce does not scorch. Take off heat and stir seafood into sauce. Using a 9- by 13-inch pan, layer one-third seafood mixture to cover the bottom of the pan to start and then cover with noodles. Put on another layer. End with seafood. Bake for about 45 minutes. Serve with garlic bread.

Cauliflower salsa salad

5-6 cups cauliflower florets in small bite-size pieces

1 cup chopped sweet peppers, green or yellow or both

1 cup chopped green olives or salad olives, drained

1 cup chopped black olives

½ cup chopped red pepper

½ cup chopped red onion

For the dressing

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon pepper

½ cup olive oil


Whisk together dressing ingredients in a small bowl or shaker. Place all vegetables in bowl and toss thoroughly. Make a few hours before serving.

Wild Willy’s rub

(great on pork and shrimp)


3/4 cup Sweet Hungarian paprika, if available

¼ cup black pepper

¼ cup salt

¼ cup sugar

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper


Mix and store in dry container or Ziploc bag until ready to rub on meat or seafood before grilling or broiling.

Lorraine’s famous strawberry nut bread


1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups flour

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 10-ounce frozen strawberries, thawed

1½ cup chopped pecans, walnuts or other nuts of choice


Grease and flour two bread pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place oil in mixing bowl and – with mixer set on low – add sugar. When mixed, add eggs one at a time until blended. Add vanilla and then slowly add flour and other dry ingredients. When blended, add strawberries and nuts and blend again. Pour into bread pans and bake for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out dry.

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