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Cook's Corner

Diana Parker | The Journal Gazette
Diana Auer was named champion under the double crust pie category at the Allen County 4-H Fair.

Baker’s forte? Champion pie

This summer was a good one for 46-year old Diana Auer. The math instructional assistant at Covington Elementary School was named champion in the double crust pie category at the Allen County 4-H Fair.

“I got a ribbon, blue, I think,” Auer says modestly.

This year wasn’t the first time she entered a pie baking contest, said Auer, who didn’t start baking until after she finished college.

“Yes, when we lived in Michigan,” Auer says, referring to when she and her husband, Brent, lived in Baroda, in Berrien County, Mich.

“That was the year (2004) I entered the pie baking contest. The fair is huge. It’s a big thing – three categories, adults, youth and appearance of your pie,” she says. “They have about 50 adults that enter, and I came in third. It was the same recipe, different crust but same pie filling.

“I’ve done a couple smaller ones. I didn’t win anything in those,” she adds.

Auer says she’s already looking at different recipes for next year’s 4-H fair.

However, pies aren’t the only thing Auer makes. She, along with her husband and son, Kevin, enjoys running. Thus, Auer is very conscious about the type of meal she chooses.

“Sometimes it’s a matter of if you make something, we add more vegetables,” she says, adding, “We’re buying the berries and we’re having those three to four times a week.”

Auer is asked about two containers sitting on top of her refrigerator.

“One is a small pail filled with granola bars for Kevin. The other is a small basket with snacks for us,” she says.

When asked to describe her cooking style in one word, Auer responds, “Casual. We are not fancy at all. We eat at the counter – not the table.” She adds, “Unless we have company.”

Q. What’s your favorite cookbook?

Brent: All of them.

Diana: One of the first ones I got, Better Homes and Gardens. My mom used the earlier edition. My favorite ones are the slow cooker ones. One of his aunts got us a subscription for Taste of Home. I have every copy (from that). I subscribed for 10 years.

Q. Do you have a lot of cookbooks?

A. If you count all the Taste of Home magazines, at least 200. I hoard cookbooks. But you can walk into the room and not see them.

Q. What’s your go-to meal?

A. Anything I put into the slow cooker. I can put potatoes, meat and carrots and we’ll eat it.

Q. What vegetable do you eat most often?

A. I want to say tomatoes. I love tomatoes. Shove them in pita bread. Yum! That way they don’t drip all over.

Q. If you were stuck on an island, what’s one food you would have to have?

Kevin: Peanut butter.

Diana: Remember the Shedd’s peanut butter? It was in a tin. We had that.

Rhubarb Cherry Pie

3 cups sliced fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces

1 (16-ounce) can pitted tart red cherries, drained

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca

4 to 5 drops red food coloring, optional

Pastry for double-crust pie

In a large bowl, combine first five ingredients; let stand 15 minutes. Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry; add filling. Top with the second crust. Cut slits in the crust.

Bake at 400 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes or until the crust is golden.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Romanian Apple Cake

5 apples, peeled and cored

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 cups flour

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch pan. Cut the apples into 1-inch wedges or chop. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until blended. Mix in the oil, baking soda, cinnamon and vanilla. Stir in the flour, just until incorporated. Fold in the apples and walnuts.

Pour batter in prepared pan. Bake for 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12 servings.

Grilled Chicken and Pecan Salad

1 to 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast, cut into strips

1 tablespoon chicken grilling seasoning, or to taste

2 to 3 romaine lettuce hearts, chopped

4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

3/4 cup dried cranberries

3/4 cup chopped pecans

2 apples, peeled and chopped

Light raspberry vinaigrette dressing or vinaigrette of your choice, as desired

Season the chicken breast with the chicken grilling seasoning. Grill until done. In a large bowl, toss the lettuce, feta cheese, cranberries, pecans and apples. Top with the grilled chicken. Serve with the vinaigrette dressing.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Cook’s Corner is a weekly feature. If you know of someone to be profiled, write to Cook’s Corner, The Journal Gazette, P.O. Box 88, Fort Wayne, IN 46801-0088; fax 461-8648; or email