It seemed my grandmother never needed a recipe. She knew what to add for a little extra zing to make a dish special. I’m starting to catch a glimpse into her secret. Cooking is like playing the piano. The more you practice, the better you become. You start to understand the underlying theories of how things go together, chords or ingredients. The more I cook, the more I learn. The more confident I become into trying new ideas.
    When I was in Belfast, Ireland, visiting family, I ate the best clam chowder. I asked the waiter what the brown round things were in my soup (No, it was not a fly doing the backstroke). They were capers. They added such a different flavor. Five years later, I ventured into making my own version of this soup. It is a combination of several recipes’ ingredients and tips, but I think it turned out good.
    The other recipes are adaptations from family members. Jonathon loves my caramel rolls but hates how long it takes. With two little ones, he and Libby need family friendly recipes, so they created their own version of caramel rolls. My sister, Amy, uses the King Hawaiian rolls to make an elegant but simple main course for her family. The final recipe I came across from Facebook. If you have any Girl Scout Thin Mints cookies left, here is a great Easter dessert. Enjoy!
 
Quick clam chowder  
2 cans clams
1 1/2 cups clam juice
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup bacon bits
1 medium onion, diced
2 large potatoes, diced
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup cream
1 to 2 tablespoons parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons capers
Salt, pepper, paprika to taste
    Drain clams but save juice. Add water to juice to equal 1 1/2 cups. Set aside. In pot, melt butter, add bacon bits and onion. Stir and cook till translucent. Add potatoes, reserved juice, salt, pepper and paprika to taste. Cover and cook over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes until potatoes are soft. Add clams, milk, cream, parsley and capers. Heat through. Do not boil. You can make this in the morning. Let it cool and put in the refrigerator until supper. This gives the flavors a chance to meld together. You can omit the bacon if you want to serve during Lent. This will be a thin soup but great with seasoned crackers. You can also add shredded carrots for color to the soup. If you would like a thicker soup, add 1 tablespoon flour after the onions turn translucent. Stir until bubbly. Then slowly add juice and potatoes.

Hot ham cheese sliders by Amy Thompson
1 package King Hawaiian rolls
Ham, thin sliced
Provolone cheese, sliced
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire
    Leaving rolls intact, slice in half length ways. Put bottom half on a greased 9-by-13 pan. Layer rolls with sliced ham and cheese. Place top half of rolls on top of meat and cheese. Carefully slice into individual rolls. In microwaveable bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, mustard and Worcestershire. Microwave till bubbly, about one minute. Brush on top of rolls. Bake in 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Amy will generally bake a couple of pans at a time. Big hit.

Easiest caramel rolls by Jonathon and Libby Schmitt
1 package King Hawaiian rolls
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
    Place rolls in greased 9-by-13 pan. In a saucepan, combine sugar, butter and syrup. Stir until melted and bubbly. Pour caramel sauce on top. Place in 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes to heat through. You can use canned caramel sauce if you want to make it even quicker.

Thin Mints cheesecake
46 Thin Mints cookies
1/4 cup butter, melted
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 cups cold heavy cream
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
Chocolate sauce for drizzling
    Grease an 8-inch spring form pan with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment paper. To make the crust, in a food processor, pulse 20 cookies until fine crumbs. Add butter and combine. Press into pan and refrigerate while making filling.
    For the cheesecake: Beat cream cheese till light and fluffy, 2 minutes. Add sugar to combine then gradually add cream. Once combined, beat on high until stiff peaks form. Add extract. Crush 12 cookies, not as fine as before for crust. Fold three-quarter of them into cream cheese mixture. Spread mixture into pan. Sprinkle remaining crushed cookies on top. Refrigerate for five hours or overnight.
    To serve, release cake from pan. Press remaining cookies against the sides of the cake. Drizzle top with chocolate sauce.
    Natalie, Mark and his brother Al, farm together near Rice, Minn. They milk 100 registered Holsteins under the RALMA prefix. Their four children are grown up and all involved in agriculture with hopes of someone returning to the farm. For questions or comments, please e-mail Natalie at mnschmitt@jetup.net.