After a long summer and lots of hard work, the garden produce has proven it is worth it for the Nichols family.
Maren and Roger Nichols have been busy this summer with the almost half an acre of garden. This includes a pumpkin patch and sweet corn for a project of their children to sell and learn marketing skills. The children include Benson who is a sophomore at Sugar-Salem High School. He has been a big help with gardening, and when the time comes for eating, he likes steak with mashed potatoes and gravy. He is active in tennis, painting mini-figures, ping pong (he has organized a club at SSHS), reading, mountain biking, raising a lamb in 4-H and showing it at the county fair, computer programming and playing the violin.
Marissa is in the seventh grade at Sugar-Salem Junior High School. She is active in soccer, basketball, arts and crafts, sewing with grandma KaraLee Ricks making specialty items, playing the violin and has embarked on raising Holland lop pedigree bunnies. She was also in 4-H and raised a lamb and showed it at the county fair. Her favorite food is steak and fries with fry sauce or steak with herbed potatoes.
Kershaw Intermediate School in Sugar City is where Eli is in the fifth grade. He plays soccer, was in a summer 4-H club and raised a lamb to show at the county fair, likes to play computer games, read, fish, plays the violin, and his favorite food is his dad’s grilled hamburgers and smoked green beans .
Emma Lee is in second grade at Central Elementary in Sugar City. Her favorite food is ice cream. She likes unicorns, Halloween, riding her bike, jumping on the trampoline, playing with her American Girl dolls and just spending time in her room with her favorite toys. She loves to do service for others.
Maren and Roger met at Brigham Young University-Idaho. They entered a competition together dancing Latin ballroom. Maren is a local and a graduate of Sugar-Salem High School. Roger is from Nampa. Before their meeting, Roger served a mission for his church to Venezuela.
Roger graduated with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and a master’s in business administration. He works at BYU-Idaho, and his professional title is user experience and web development.
Maren just began working for the Sugar-Salem School District as a gifted and talented coordinator. She recently completed her master’s degree in education, with an emphasis in learning and technology.
Since their marriage, Maren and Roger have lived in Rexburg before settling at Maren’s family farm east of Sugar City as the third generation. They love country life and especially their gardening. On their farm Maren has enjoyed experimenting with a variety of vegetables and herbs and this year was able to get a greenhouse to experiment with growing plants inside. Some of the produce they have grown this year include pumpkins, Irresistible variety of corn, cucumbers, watermelon, cabbage, carrots (plus a new variety of colored carrots), potatoes, beans (which includes edamame), strawberries, five varieties of sunflowers, two varieties or raspberries, lettuce, rainbow chard, basil, cilantro, parsley, tomatillos, peppers, mouse melons, eight varieties of squash and many other items.
Maren is a cook that likes to experiment and has an array of cookbooks and also many canning books, as she does a variety of canning of their produce. She was influenced by her dad, the late Charles Ricks, as he was an excellent cook. Roger is also a big help in cooking for the family. He likes to smoke all sorts of meats and vegetables. Maren could not choose a favorite category of cooking, as she loves every aspect from entertaining to holiday cooking. Maren’s favorite food would be Mexican cuisine while Roger would choose fettuccine Alfredo.
There isn’t anything Maren wouldn’t tackle in her kitchen and has begun to learn to cook without gluten, as Eli was diagnosed with celiac disease. The family takes it in stride and supports Eli by eating the different foods containing no gluten alongside him.
Hobbies for Maren include running, hiking, biking, playing the guitar and piano, reading, sewing, 4-H lamb club leader, teaching, doing service for others, and her family. She can’t thank her neighbors and the good people in the surrounding communities enough for their kindness and support of her family in their endeavors and pursuits in life.
Roger likes woodworking, carpentry, playing football, being a sports spectator, working at BYU-Idaho and associating with the students there.
The Nichols family likes to snow ski together, work as a family in summer gardening, as well as harvesting the produce. They like to kayak, stay at the family cabin at Island Park, be involved in all kinds of adventure and this year visited the Lewis and Clark Caverns. They enjoy visiting state and national parks and supporting each member of the family in their individual activities.
Today the Nichols family has shared recipes that have become some of their favorites and recipes that use their homegrown produce as well. They hope you will enjoy these recipes and include them in your own family meals.
(Maren and Roger Nichols)
1 pound linguine, spaghetti or fettuccine
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest, from 1 medium lemon
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from 1 to 2 medium lemons (bottled works too)
2 to 3 green onions, finely chopped (white and green parts)
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ to 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Marinade: ½ cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning (I sometimes leave this out — still great)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, from about 2 to 3 medium lemons
¼ cup fresh minced parsley
1 to 1-1/2 pounds chicken breasts sliced into ½-inch strips or bite-size pieces
For the marinade, combine the olive oil, garlic, brown sugar, Cajun seasoning, lemon juice, parsley and soy sauce. Toss the marinade and chicken together in a shallow dish or Ziploc bag. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 12 (better flavor the longer it marinades). For the pasta, combine juice of one lemon, lemon zest, olive oil, green onions and fresh parsley together in a small bowl. Set aside. Cook pasta in lightly salted water until al dente, according to package directions.
Drain and return to the pot off the heat. Pour the lemon juice/olive oil/green onion mixture over pasta and toss lightly to combine. Heat has 12-inch skillet over medium heat; add the marinade and the chicken to the skillet, moving the chicken pieces so they are in a single layer. Cook over medium-high heat until the chicken is cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the pasta to the skillet with the chicken and cooked marinade or over the pasta in the pot (whichever will fit the mixture best). Toss with Parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve immediately with extra Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Note: I will prep this chicken with the marinade and freeze it. It makes a quick meal once thawed and cooked.
Mexican Haystacks (a twist on Hawaiian Haystacks)
(Maren and Roger Nichols)
1 pound ground beef or ground turkey
½ teaspoon paprika or smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups low-sodium beef broth, if using regular broth, cut down the salt in the recipes
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
One 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen corn kernels, no need to thaw
Lime wedges for serving, optional
Hot cooked rice or quinoa for serving
Taco toppings: Lettuce, sour cream, cheese, olives, tomatoes, etc.
In a large 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, add the ground beef or turkey, salt and pepper. Cook, breaking the meat into small pieces until cooked through. Drain excess grease, if needed. Stir in the paprika, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, oregano, garlic powder and flour. The mixture will be crumbly. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly until the meat and spices are fragrant and sizzling. Whisking quickly and constantly, slowly add the beef broth and tomato sauce about ½ cup at a time, letting the mixture thicken and bubble between additions before adding more. Stir in the black beans and corn. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until thickened. Serve the sauce over rice (or quinoa) with lime wedges and taco toppings of your choice.
Note: I’ll prep this meat in advance and freeze, as it freezes great.
(Maren and Roger Nichols)
This is Roger’s favourite.
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese (freshly grated is best)
Heat butter and cream in a two-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until butter is melted. Stir in cheese, salt and pepper. To over your favorite pasta.
Note: We love this very rich sauce, and I often double or triple it.
(Maren and Roger Nichols)
2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
¼ cup pine nuts (I’ve substituted toasted almonds with success)
Place all ingredients in a food processor (a blender could work too). Blend on medium speed for 3 minutes. Pause occasionally to scrape the sides until the mixture is smooth. Toss with hot cooked pasta, if desired.
Note: I make this in bulk and freeze in ice cube trays. We use this pesto for sandwiches, pizza, pasta and soup (my tomato soup recipe especially).
Three Ingredient Tomato Soup
(Maren and Roger Nichols)
1 large onion, cut into wedges
Two 28-ounce cans tomatoes—whole, peeled
If you use fresh tomatoes, you need about 2 pounds.
3 cups water or chicken stock
1 teaspoon kosher salt to taste
If you use fresh tomatoes, peel and cut up. Melt butter or olive oil in a medium-heated large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add onion wedges. Saute and scrape the bottom of the pan when you add the stock/water and the tomatoes with their juices and salt. Bring to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally as needed. I use an immersion blender, but you can use a regular blender. If you use a regular blender, do it in batches — remove the center insert and cover the hole with a towel, as it releases steam.
Note: I add a cube or 2 of my pesto. You can also add fresh basil, a handful at the end before blending the soup. Also, if you use home canned tomatoes, often the lemon juice added to the tomatoes adds too much acidity for my taste so I rinse them and then eyeball the soup in case it needs more liquid.
Option: This soup once prepared freezes beautifully.