NORWAY – Cooking is a passion for Dena Martin. She is a prep cook for SAD 17 during the school year and in the summer works up to 70 hours a week as lead cook for the Seeds of Peace International Camp on Pleasant Lake in Otisfield.

Despite those many hours on the job, she still enjoys being in her home kitchen. “I love cooking. I don’t get sick of it,” she said.

Martin comes from a family of good cooks, including her mother, father and sister. Her mother has won Best of Show at the Calling All Cooks Contest at the Norway Town Hall. Martin, herself, won first prize in the dessert category for her harvest pumpkin trifle. (see accompanying recipe)

“I cook for all occasions. We celebrated every birthday in the extended family,” said Martin, who enjoys preparing all kinds of foods, especially desserts. One cooking skill she’d like to perfect is making pie crusts. “I can’t do it,” she said, adding, “My mom is the queen of crusts.” Martin said that at times she has rolled a pie crust out at least five times and then thrown it out because it wasn’t right.

A Kitchen Aid mixer and a bread maker are among Martin’s favorite kitchen gadgets. “The mixer is my favorite. It was a gift from my husband. … I baby it,” said Martin, who enjoys using her bread maker to make dough for cinnamon rolls and pizza crusts.

Martin finds lots of tasty recipes by watching the Food Network. “I am constantly watching it. It’s a passion. … I think my husband gets sick of it.”

Besides being with family and cooking for them, Martin enjoys scrapbooking, gardening and cross-stitch.

Blueberry blossom Bundt cake


1½ cups vegetable oil

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup light brown sugar (packed)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 large eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon nutmeg

3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (rinsed)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Cream oil, sugars and vanilla together. Add eggs, beating well. Sift flour, baking soda, salt and spices together. Add to sugar mixture; mix well. Using solid vegetable shortening, grease a Bundt pan. Pour 1/3 of batter in pan, followed by a layer of blueberries. Alternate layers until done. Sprinkle remaining blueberries on top. Bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool before removing from pan.

Harvest pumpkin trifle


1 box 18.5-ounce spice cake mix (1 1/3 cups water, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 3 large eggs)

1 15-ounce can pumpkin

4 boxes 3.4-ounce instant vanilla pudding (4 cups milk when preparing pudding as directed on box)

3 16-ounce containers Cool Whip

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¾ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon cloves

¼ teaspoon ginger

3/4 teaspoon salt


Prepare and bake spice cake as directed on box in a greased 9- by 13-inch pan. Set aside to cool. With mixer, combine pumpkin, 2 boxes instant vanilla pudding, 1 container Cool Whip, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and salt. Refrigerate until needed. Prepare the two remaining boxes of instant pudding as directed on box; refrigerate just until it sets (cover the pudding with plastic wrap so a skin won’t form). When cake is completely cooled, cut into small cubes. In the bottom of trifle dish, layer cake cubes, then pumpkin mixture, then vanilla pudding and finally Cool Whip. Continue layering in same order, ending with Cool Whip on top. Keep refrigerated until time to serve.

NOTE: If you don’t have a trifle dish, you can use a deep glass bowl.

Savory buttercup squash and potato soup


1 3- to 4-pound buttercup squash

1 stick of butter/margarine

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

1 can cream of potato soup

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon onion powder

Salt and pepper to taste


Peel and boil squash over medium heat until tender. Drain most of the water; leave about 1 cup in the pan. Mash squash; add remainder of ingredients; stir until well blended. Simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes. (Martin adds a pinch or two of sugar.) Garnish with sour cream.

NOTE: This is also a great way to utilize Thanksgiving leftovers. Just substitute 1 cup mashed potato for canned soup.

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