Denise Henry of Montgomery County cooks well, and she cooks big. A mother of five, she says that sometimes the greatest challenge of cooking is having the kids underfoot while trying to get supper to the table.
Denise, her husband Mike and their children are this year’s Outstanding Young Farm Family, and Denise says no one was more surprised than she to find out they’d won.
“Mike had won the beef division before we met, and he showed me the video of the finalists from that year,” Denise said. “He would tease me and say we were going to enter so I’d have to be on the video because I’m not much of a public speaker. I was panicked about being in front of the camera when we entered. We saw the video of all the finalists, and they were all such nice families. I had picked another family that I thought was going to win, so when I heard our name announced, my jaw dropped.”
Denise says that while she grew up in the country, she never experienced farm life until she was married. “I didn’t live in town, but we never had animals or row crops or anything,” she said. “I had never even been around cows until I met Mike. It was a whole new experience for me, but I really like it.”
She also said she’s glad her children are growing up on a farm.
“Children learn about birth and death and how it’s all part of life. And even though our kids are still young, I know they understand some aspects of life better than I did as a child and better than some children their own age. Mike has been so wonderful at talking with our girls,” said Denise.
Denise said she didn’t grow up cooking but learned a lot from her mother just the same.
“When I think back on my childhood, my mother worked and I can relate to feeling tired by suppertime. She wanted to get it cooked and get out of the kitchen,” Denise said. “After I was engaged, I started to pay more attention to what and how she cooked, and I tried cooking a few things. It wasn’t until I was married though, and I was in the kitchen alone, that I really learned. I stayed on the phone with Mama most nights the first year I was married.”
And like her mother, Denise says she cooks more by feeling than by recipe.
“I remember calling one night to ask about making biscuits, and she couldn’t tell me much other than she just knew when it looked right,” she said. “She tried to give me ingredient amounts, and that got me started. But she’s right — I had to work at it until I could judge what it looked like.”
Denise says her recipes reflect her busy schedule.
“Sometimes the chicken or roast doesn’t get thawed out before it goes in the oven. I just cook it a little longer, and it’s fine. I also adjust recipes, substituting things I have on hand for ingredients I don’t. You don’t just load up five kids and drive into town to the grocery store on a whim,” she joked.
She also passes along one recipe from her oldest daughter. Abby’s Beefaroni won second place in the county cooking contest.
And since July is Pork month, Denise recommends Porter steaks for a delicious dinner.