COLLINS Karen Shields' cooking life is full of irony. Although she comes from "a big line of great cooks" including her mother, grandmother and two sisters Shields doesn't consider herself a very good cook.
"I don't enjoy my own cooking," the Collins woman said. "Someone else's cooking always tastes better than mine."
Another cruel twist of fate is that meatloaf is one of the five meals Shields finds herself cooking on a regular basis. The worst meal she can remember making was a meatloaf when she and her husband Rick were first married.
"Rick said it was a brick," she said. "Rick says the key to it is not adding a lot to it. He likes the taste of the meat. My meatloaf is never the same twice. I just throw stuff in it."
Her husband teased her about the infamous meatloaf.
"I told her if she made 1,000 more, we could build a house," Rick said. "I was joking. It wasn't bad."
Yet the woman who doesn't consider herself the most talented person in the kitchen is this week's featured cook. Another irony is that Shields doesn't make her featured recipe, fruit pizza, very often.
"It wouldn't be something I would make for just Rick, me and the boys," she said, referring to her sons, Joshua, 13, and Nathan, 8. "It would be something I would take somewhere."
When Shields does make the fruit pizza, she does so during the summer and for picnics, where she said "it can be 'ooh'-ed and 'ah'-ed over." The healthy dessert was a big hit at her family's Memorial Day gathering.
"There were many desserts. That was the first one gone. I think it was eaten the most," Shields said.
She suggested readers use just strawberries, bananas and blueberries for a July 4 variation.
"The bananas will turn. You have to use the glaze," the North Central EMS paramedic said. "I think the key is the glaze. It keeps the fruit from turning."
Shields grew up in a large family. Her mother often made things like ham during the holidays so that the food would last.
"For Christmas, I've seen her cook a ham, roast and turkey," Shields said.
Growing up on an organic dairy farm has made a lasting impression on the Berlin Township cook. She prefers to buy organic foods, ones that don't use pesticides or insecticides, over conventional foods despite the price difference.
"It's just the way God made it. It's not adding any of the chemicals," Shields said.
"I grew up hearing, 'You are what you eat.' ... We lived out of our garden year-round."