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posted: 12/11/2012 6:00 AM

Passionate baker believes in simple recipes, fresh ingredients

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  • Judy Ibeling uses butter and oil and two types of sugar in her old-fashion sugar cookies.

      Judy Ibeling uses butter and oil and two types of sugar in her old-fashion sugar cookies.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Judy Ibeling believes in from-scratch cooking and sharing meals with friends.

      Judy Ibeling believes in from-scratch cooking and sharing meals with friends.
    photos by Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

By Sally Eyre

Judy Ibeling, aka Betty Crocker to her friends and relatives, admits her childhood was straight from "Leave it to Beaver."

Judy was born and raised, and still lives in Roselle where both sets of grandparents also lived, within walking distance.

"Both of my grandmothers were wonderful cooks. I would go over all the time. My mother would complain that I didn't seem to have enough time to clean my room, but I always had time to walk across town to bake a cake," laughs Judy.

What she learned from her grandmothers was the "old-fashioned, from scratch kind of cooking."

"I'm not a gourmet cook," Judy insists. "To me good cooking is simple foods, cooked well. I use the freshest ingredients, real butter, and fresh herbs when I can. I enjoy cooking for people; I think it is one of the ways you show people that you care about them."

Judy's co-workers often benefit from her philosophy. When she brings something to share it's always homemade, never store-bought.

"We're missing out on the tradition of mom in the kitchen. We're losing our heritage. When you do take the time to make something, people know it and appreciate it."

As you might guess, Judy loves to entertain.

"I like to have little themes to my dinners. For example, one time we were entertaining friends from the South, so I made a grits casserole." That night Judy had all the women tie on vintage-style aprons and help her make the Southern-style biscuits.

A few years ago, Judy and her husband both lost their jobs at the same time so they had a "down-but-not-out" party.

"I planned the menu around foods from the Depression era. We had pot roast and mashed potatoes with gravy, and homemade applesauce."

When she entertains, Judy relies on a few tried-and-true strategies.

"I like to make my friends comfortable so my dinners are always on the casual side. I think of the evening in stages -- first, there are appetizers and drinks, then dinner with music, and last, coffee and dessert. Good friends, good food, nothing fancy!"

Judy usually prepares as much as possible ahead of time.

"I don't want to spend all night in the kitchen. I also try to get my friends involved by helping me out."

And when things don't turn out?

"I remember hearing Julia Child talking about that. She said, 'Never apologize for a dish that didn't turn out -- you're cooking with love.' I think that is a great saying."

Perhaps what Judy is particularly known for however, is baking.

"I'm the cookie baker. I love to bake." Judy shares her tried-and-true sugar cookie recipe with us, just in time for the holidays.

"My two older brothers live within walking distance to us and whenever they come over, the first place they go to is the cookie jar!"

Sounds just like something the Beaver and Wally would do.

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