Homemade in the High Plains Recipe Feature: Nina Flax, appetizer category grand prize winner

Nina Flax, of Osage City, Kansas, submitted a pimento cheese recipe for the appetizer category of High Plains Journal’s Homemade in the High Plains cookbook and it was selected as the grand prize winner for that category. Flax said her household has subscribed to HPJ for years and when it arrives each week, she flips straight to the home and family section to see which recipe is featured. Flax grew up on a farm in southern Osage County, Kansas. She was the oldest of six and her mother loved to cook.

“In those days you didn’t go out and eat, we cooked,” Flax explained. “We were 4-Hers and we always went to cooking classes and took baking entries to the fair. The first things I ever remember making was no-bake cookies.”

Flax later became a teacher and met her future husband in Ulysses, Kansas. They married and had three children. Flax said eventually they settled in Osage City and started farming with her father and brother. During those years she was a school library media specialist, but she also played an integral part in the farm. She ran the planter, drove the wheat truck, handled the accounting and delivered many meals to the field.

“This part of Kansas doesn’t produce tons of wheat, but I truly do love wheat harvest,” Flax said. “There’s something about seeing those heads of grain roll into that combine header. When you get that harvest in the bin, it’s like you can take a deep breath and say OK, at least we’ve done all we can.”

The Flax family has slowed down the last few years and eased into retirement, but they still own land and their family is still farming. Through the years, Flax said being a farm wife is an extreme partnership.

“My mother always used to tell me, ‘You and your husband have to be like a team of horses, pulling together in the same direction, or it doesn’t work,’” she said. “A farm couple has to do things together because I don’t think you can succeed without that, especially in these economic times. It’s a great way to raise kids and to remember the people who came before you on this same land and how they sacrificed and struggled.”

As for her crowd-pleasing pimento cheese recipe, Flax said her sister-in-law in North Carolina is the originator of the dish.

“She gave me the recipe and I tweaked it a little bit to add some bread and butter pickle juice,” Flax said. “I have to give her credit for it because she grew up making pimento cheese as many girls in the South learn to do.”

Flax also gave a helpful harvest tip that can keep any meal hot for hours.

“I always found that when it gets cool in the fall, trying to keep things warm is important. I would take quart canning jars and fill them with boiling water and put them in an ice chest and then put the food in there and that keeps it really nice and hot.”

For more recipes and helpful cooking and harvest meal tips and tricks, follow along with upcoming High Plains Journal issues, hpj.com and allaboardharvest.com.

For a limited time, if you purchase or renew a 2 or 3 year subscription to High Plains Journal you’ll receive the Homemade in the High Plains Cookbook for free. Visit hpjsubscribe.com for details. To purchase the cookbook visit hpjsubscribe.com/product/homemade-in-the-high-plains-cookbook/.

Lacey Vilhauer can be reached at 620-227-1871 or lvilhauer@hpj.com.

Pimento Cheese
by Nina Flax, Osage City, KS

“My southern born sister-in-law shared this recipe, and I have made a few additions. Makes a glorious grilled cheese sandwich. Duke’s Mayo is a must,” Flax said.

Servings: 10
Total Time: 20 minutes

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, large grate
7/8 to 1 cup Duke’s Mayonnaise
1/4 cup juice from bread and butter pickles
8 oz. chopped pimentos
1/2 to 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
1/4 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp dry onion

Combine all ingredients together, then whip with an electric mixer to desired consistency. Serve with crackers, bread or vegetables.

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