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In the Kitchen with... Cheryl Rogers
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Ben Lochard
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Cheryl Rogers
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Check out these recipes from Cheryl Rogers:

Korean BBQ Beef Pizza

Sweet and Savory Confetti SPAM Salad

Chocolate-Covered Maple Pecan Cheesecake

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Veteran Iowa State Fair contestant knows how to treat her neighbors well.

Some neighbors of Cheryl Rogers in Ankeny know there are perks to living in their townhome community. Their homes are lovely. They have easy access to I-35. It’s easy to get to the amenities of their community.

And at the time of the Iowa State Fair, they know Cheryl will be testing her entries in the foods division of the fair. They know she will share and that they will enjoy some fine foods. When her third garage door is open or she texts them, her friends come running.

She has been entering the fair contests since 1995 and often signs up for as many as 40 entries, but she usually takes about 20-plus. She mostly enters savory, not sweet, foods. Because of her work for 35 years at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames in the lab or working with electronic medical records, she is organized and makes a spread sheet of her entries, contest times, and even the plate or bowl each dish will go on for its show time at the fair.

Cheryl grew up on a farm near Sergeant Bluff near Sioux City. “My mother, now 95, didn’t really want help in the kitchen, but I learned from her by osmosis. She cooked by instinct.”

Cheryl has been a cook and baker her whole life. “I’m always on the lookout for recipes. A friend refers to me as a ‘recipe savant’ because I can duplicate and figure out what goes with what in recipes.”

Not to brag, but Cheryl has won as much as $1,500 in prizes during a single fair year. One of her recipes, shared here, was for Sweet and Savory Confetti SPAM Salad, and it went on to the national Hormel SPAM contest.

She enjoys cooking for neighborhood block parties, get-togethers, and potlucks. “These days, though, it gets harder to cook for others who often prefer vegan, gluten-free, or lactose-free foods. I just make what I make, and they adjust.”

When neighbors try out her recipes, she asks for real critiques. “I don’t want them to say something is really good. I want real comments and critiques as to the thickness of a crust or how a dish could be better.”

The fair isn’t just about entering or winning for Cheryl. “I have my special fair family, other contestants I have gotten to know over the years. We all share very special friendships for each other. It’s a wonderful bond.”

Cheryl has a superstition. “I have what I call my ‘lucky plate,’ which is an inexpensive plate I got at a sale once. If I have an entry I feel is a little weak for some reason, I put it on that plate for the fair.”

So far, the results have been great. What’s on that plate almost always wins.

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