Serving meals is what Henrietta Gentges knows best. Growing up in St. Thomas as the third of ten kids, she was always in the kitchen with her mother preparing five meals a day for the family and the men who worked the farm. In addition, she learned the technical side of cooking from the leaders of the local 4-H club.
As she grew up, that love of serving continued. “When I was in high school, I lived with a family nannying for their children, cooking for them, and making sure the kids had fun,” she says. During that time, Henrietta’s mother baked to earn extra money for the family. When that began to grow, she started Boessen Catering, which Henrietta helped with on occasion. In the early ’80s, Henrietta took over the business from her mother, with help from her five children and their spouses and support from her husband, John, when she needed it.
Through the years, Henrietta has catered at the Capitol, sometimes three meals a day during legislative session. She has catered weddings, sometimes for multiple generations of the same family. She has cooked for her family, the Governor, and private dinner parties. She even managed the dietary needs of St. Joseph’s nursing home and Callaway Community Hospital. To do this, she went to school to receive her certification in dietary management and sanitation. Many will remember her food from her 13 years of cooking for the United Methodist Church’s Wednesday night dinners or from her school lunches at St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
Now retired, Henrietta still enjoys cooking for her family. “My greatest joy is when all my kids come home, and I can make family dinners again in my home,” she says. “Great food, fun fellowship, deep friendships, and a solid life of faith…my mom prided herself in making these her main ingredients for serving others. I’ve done the same thing the past 50 years, with the support of my family and husband of 56 years. If I’ve done it well, it will continue in the future generations of my family.”
Through all her years of service, Henrietta has picked up quite a bit of knowledge on the simplest, tastiest ways to put together a meal. She is a vehement advocate of the rotisserie chicken and its versatility. She’ll pick one up from Hy-Vee (who will debone the bird for you) and create three incredibly different meals from it. She also has a list of must haves for your pantry and your refrigerator (see page 77) and three delicious recipes for meals you can throw together for a last minute dinner party, family gathering, or any event.
Summer Chop Salad
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
- 2 cup cucumbers, sliced thin
- Cut about 6 green onions, use whole onion
- 4 to 5 ounces garlic and chives white cheddar cheese curds
- House dressing (see below)
Place vegetables in shallow dish. Pour house dressing over vegetables so all are covered (best if marinades for at least two hours before serving).
House Dressing Recipe
Mix following ingredients together:
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1 tablespoon dry minced onion
- 2 teaspoon celery seed
- 2 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 whole beef tenderloin – 3.5 to 4 lbs, trimmed
- Dry pepper rub
- 1/2 stick of butter
- Coarse salt
Spray shallow pan with lip. Rub tenderloin with pepper rub. Cover lightly with parchment paper and let stand at room temperature for a couple hours. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Place tenderloin in oven and roast for approximately 30 minutes until top is brown and has crusted over. Take out of oven and set on cooling rack. Turn oven down to 325 degrees. Melt butter in juice in bottom of pan. Add coarse salt to juice to achieve a light salty taste (approximately 1/2 teaspoon). Brush juice over tenderloin, repeating three times.
Place back in oven for 30 to 45 minutes until internal temperature reaches:
Rare: 135 degrees
Medium: 145 degrees
Do not cook well done.
Take out of oven and set on cooling rack. Lightly place parchment paper over beef. It will continue cooking for about 15 to 20 minutes. Ready to serve as steaks.
If used as sliders or sandwich meat, with au jus, it can be held for at least two hours.
Thai Sweet and Sour Chicken Tacos
- 1 cup meat from rotisserie chicken, cubed
- 1/2 fresh red pepper, cut into strips
- 1/2 green pepper, cut into strips
- 1/4 cup chopped white onion
- Fresh cilantro, chopped
- Shredded Mexican cheese blend
- 1/2 cup Thai sweet and sour chili sauce
- Hard taco shells
Spray non-stick skillet. Sauté onions until translucent. Add cubed chicken to hot skillet. Stir until browned. Add Thai sweet and sour sauce to skillet. Stir until warm and set aside.
Build your taco:
Add cheese, chicken, peppers, cilantro into hard shell. Enjoy! Makes 6 tacos.
Must Haves in the Pantry:
- Ready to eat graham cracker pie crust
- No bake cheesecake mix
- Yellow cake mix/brownie mix
- Jar of queso – white and yellow
- Prepackaged dry flavored rice
- Cupcake liners
- Ramen noodles
- Evaporated milk
- Bottled ranch and Italian dressing
- Red and white pasta sauce
- Nutella/peanut butter
- Two different flavors of chips/crackers
- Dry pasta
Must Have in the Fridge:
- Block of cream cheese
- Lemons and/or limes
- Premium Better than Bouillon roasted chicken base for chicken broth
- Fresh veggies and fruit