Cindy Boles makes shepherd's pie
Cook has perfected way to serve home cooking all week long
Don't call Cindy Boles on a Saturday when she's elbow-deep in a daylong cooking marathon.
Like an athlete with an eye toward the finish line, Cindy likes to focus on her game while she stocks up meals for the busy weeknights to come.
"I'm on a mission," says the Spring Grove woman who works part-time in an insurance office. "If somebody calls, I stop" and it throws off her rhythm.
Still, friends desperate for an answer to a cooking question will call with apologies: "I know you're in the kitchen, but -." and Cindy good-naturedly puts her work on pause to answer.
The Saturday sessions are scheduled at least twice a month, while her husband, Bob, is at work. In the kitchen by 8 a.m., Cindy brews coffee, turns on the Food Network or a movie "just for background noise" and dives in.
The menus are driven by the week's best buys at the supermarket. When ground beef is on sale you can bet Cindy is converting it into chili, meatloaf, meatballs and Southwest Casserole. If green peppers are a bargain she'll make vegetarian lasagna and a breakfast casserole.
If all goes well, by the end of the afternoon she has five or six dishes in the freezer and a separate dinner on the table.
"I fight to get my shower and get dressed before my husband gets home at 5," says Cindy, laughing.
A well-organized and practical cook who doesn't clutter her kitchen with dozens of gadgets, Cindy has an easily tapped sense of humor and love of laughter, which bubbles over frequently as we talk.
Some of her produce comes from the backyard, where her husband tends a garden, and she harvests and processes the bounty.
"There's nothing better than pulling out a bag of green beans or corn from the freezer," says Cindy. "You can taste the difference."
Cindy stores everything in two full-size freezers and two refrigerator freezers, because, she says, "you can never have enough storage space."
Entertaining is a hobby she indulges at least once a month, typically on Sundays and especially during football season. Apart from that each year she hosts a summer luau and a Christmas open house for 60 to 100 people.
Her last big bash was a bridal shower in August for her daughter where she fed 60 people hot and cold hors d'oeuvres. Among the goodies: Mexican cornbread stuffed with hot dogs, taco dip, four-layer cheese dip and "hamburger skewers" laced with meatballs, pineapple and cherry tomatoes.
Not on that menu - Cindy's signature Jalapeno Poppers, a time-consuming appetizer filled with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon.
"I'm very stingy with those," she says, but we snagged the recipe so you can test them this week. They might be a nice prelude to her Upscale Shepherd's Pie, laced with blue cheese and mushrooms.
For those with a needy sweet tooth, we have Cindy's Sweet Potato Casserole to try out before the holidays.
Questions? Just don't call her on Saturday.