From the moment we tasted her Taffy Apple Dip recipe in Taste of Home‘s premier issue in 1993, we fell in love with Sue Gronholz and her recipes. This Wisconsin cook has been part of our family from the very beginning, and recently she filled us in on her history in the kitchen.
Taste of Home: Tell us how your love of home cooking got started.
Sue Gronholz: My family made the best desserts (still do). Mom always let my sister and me lick the beaters or sample the cookie dough…yum! We enjoyed helping her make desserts and loved to watch Mom decorate cakes for birthdays and anniversaries. (My grandma used to decorate wedding cakes so Mom always used her recipe.)
TOH: Do you have an indispensable kitchen gadget?
SG: Oh, yes! My mother-in-law got me herb shears several years ago and now I don’t know what I’d do without them. It looks like hefty scissors with five blades and works like a charm for snipping fresh dill, tarragon, rosemary, etc. I have an extensive herb garden and use fresh herbs all the time…this gadget sure makes things easier. (You can grab a pair of Sue’s favorite shears for less than $10!)
TOH: Given your large herb garden, what are three herbs you think no one is using but totally should be?
SG: Lemon thyme, cinnamon basil and anise hyssop. All three are very, very flavorful, but you can’t find them unless you visit a farmers market or grow them yourself.
- Lemon thyme has a strong lemony scent and flavor with just a touch of thyme. I like using it in chicken dishes, fruit salads, desserts and teas.
- Cinnamon basil combines the best of basil and cinnamon. It’s great with ham, for pesto, in fruit salads and desserts. It also adds wonderful flavor to ice cream.
- Anise hyssop has a delicious licorice favor (and beautiful purple blossoms). I like to use it in fruit salads and salsas, desserts and teas.
These three are definitely worth searching out! Here are more ways to use fresh herbs.
TOH: Do you have any cooks or chefs who you admire and why?
SG: I think Julia Child was wonderful! She was so down-to-earth and let everyone know that it was OK to make a mistake in the kitchen.
TOH: What’s on your recipe bucket list?
SG: This may sound silly, but chocolate chip cookies. I have lots of cookie recipes with chocolate chips in them, but can’t seem to make plain ol’ chocolate chip cookies that taste good!
TOH: What was the very first thing you learned to cook?
SG: I have fond memories of decorating cutout cookies with my mom and younger sister when I was little. Mom would let us help with the measuring, but cutting them out and decorating them was our favorite part!
TOH: How did you become such a confident cook?
SG: That definitely took years of practice (and lots of phone calls to my mom and grandmas). I always followed a recipe as written and made sure I had everything I needed before I started. It wasn’t until years later that I started adding my own twists to my favorite recipes.
When we started selling fresh herbs at the farmers market, I really didn’t know what to do with them. Several chefs became our regular customers and encouraged me to start experimenting with my herbs. Each week they’d share tips and recipe ideas, so I’d go home and try their suggestions. My family loved it! My husband Todd and the kids were helpful in sharing their feedback, and after that, it didn’t take long for my confidence to grow.
TOH: Tell us about your funniest kitchen flop.
SG: Oh, my! I guess it would be the first turtle cheesecake I baked when I was working at a local coffee shop. I had not yet perfected my recipe and was baking in a convection oven. The cheesecake looked done, so I removed it from the oven, cooled it, and chilled it overnight.
The next morning, when I removed the sides of the springform pan, the filling gushed out and onto the floor! My co-worker and I looked at each other in stunned amazement and started laughing hysterically. She helped me clean up the mess and I started over. We joked about that one for a long time. (Even now, with my updated recipe, I still hold my breath each time I remove the sides of the springform pan!)
TOH: What do you do when you’re not cooking?
SG: I work full time at a local jewelry store, so that keeps me pretty busy. In my spare time, you’ll find me working in my garden and flower beds or looking through cookbooks or online for new recipes to try. Todd and I (we’re empty-nesters) enjoy spending time with our kids and grandkids, as well as taking short drives or hiking to do a little bird-watching.
TOH: What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone who’s just too busy to cook?
SG: A home-cooked meal is well worth taking a little time for! There are lots of recipes available for quick meals or recipes that use convenience foods to save on time. Use your slow cooker whenever possible. It’s easy to put the ingredients together in the morning and come home to a delicious meal. Make use of your freezer; double recipes when you can and freeze the extra…it will come in handy on a busy night!