Pat Hoeft loves the conversations she gets into at the Penzeys Store in Arvada, Colorado. "I was in last weekend and I thought to myself how delightful it is to be a part of this huge family of cooks," she says.

Pat Hoeft has found a wonderful extended family in the foothills of Denver, Colorado. "I've been a volunteer at Rocky Mountain PBS since my second daughter was in kindergarten--she's 32 now," says Pat, who helps organize between 600 and 700 active volunteers at the local public broadcasting station. They might produce short newscasts by 6th graders or archive the station's 50 years of memories.

Folks at the station get together frequently for potlucks and, shares Pat, "I was privileged to meet filmmaker Ken Burns and his associates at an event we hosted to kick off the recent National Parks: America's Best Idea series on PBS."

Pat and her husband are taking a cue from the series to explore the beauty in their own backyard. "Hitting every national park, monument and historic site is on our bucket list.

"We've visited four Alaskan national parks: Denali, Katmai, Glacier Bay and Kenai Fjords. Closer to home, we frequent all of Colorado's national parks and have been to most of the national parks in Montana, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico. I love visiting the parks in

September and October when they're less crowded, the wildlife is abundant and color is spectacular."

Her favorite park so far? "Katmai National Park on the Alaska Peninsula, where you can watch brown bears catching salmon for hours on end. It's fascinating."

Besides her passion for the outdoors, cooking keeps Pat happily humming in the kitchen. "I love cooking with my daughter, who is a much more intuitive cook than I am. I was so excited when the Penzeys store opened in Arvada, Colorado. My daughter and I like to meet there before having lunch together."

Family dinners in July, August and September often feature fresh main dishes like Pat's refreshing Basmati Rice and Chicken Salad.

"And when Colorado's Western Slope tomatoes arrive at the farmer's market, I make Bacon and Tomato Salad. It's such an easy and light summertime supper, complete by itself."

Pat also loves any chance she gets to cook for her brothers and sisters, most of whom visit from her native Wisconsin.

As the oldest of six, Pat has vivid childhood memories of piling in the family station wagon to visit Grandma in Milwaukee most Sundays. "This was, of course, way before seatbelts and air conditioning, or a car with a radio. I remember gas wars and the dishes we'd receive when buying 19-cents-a-gallon gas. My grandmother, called Mamie, always made my very favorite thing--German-style potato salad with lots of bacon. The dressing was vinegar-y and had celery seeds in it in addition to fresh celery leaves, poured hot over warm potato slices. I've never been able to duplicate it exactly."

Family bonding has jumped seamlessly to the next generation, a fact that makes Pat very proud. "The six siblings have between us 9 children, the Cousin Club, who have grown to be very close. They visit each other across the country and go on vacations together. The oldest now is 36, the youngest is 20. They welcome additions to the Club by marriage. And now there are 3 babies known as the Cubbies. It warms my heart to see them all together."

----As told to Emily Tyra

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Bacon and Tomato Salad

If you are fortunate enough to have fresh garden tomatoes, give this delicious pasta salad from Pat a try. She likes to serve this with baked pitas brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with Sandwich Sprinkle.

  • 1/2-3/4 lb. small pasta, such as mini farfalle (bowties)
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 2-3 large garden tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2-1 Cup mayonnaise
  • 1-2 tsp. cider vinegar (see note)

Put a kettle of water on to boil for the pasta. Chop the bacon roughly (it's easiest to cut across the whole pound in 1/2-inch strips) and fry in a large skillet until crisp. When the water is boiling, cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and spray or sprinkle with cider vinegar (see note).

In a serving bowl, combine the pasta, bacon, tomatoes, onion, PEPPER and CELERY SEED and stir to combine. Dress to taste with mayonnaise. Serve immediately. Do not refrigerate (the bacon gets soggy and the whole thing tastes weird the next day).

Note from Pat: "Pasta and potato salads are often less tasty than they ought to be, especially if you're not serving the salad immediately. I now keep a small spray bottle filled with cider vinegar on my kitchen counter. Drain the pasta/potatoes and spray them immediately, while still hot, with several squirts of vinegar, toss, spray again, and toss. Let sit for several minutes. Then add whatever additional ingredients and half the amount of dressing called for. The salad will taste much brighter and will not be drowning in dressing."

Prep. time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes for bacon and pasta
Serves: 6-8

Nutritional Information: Servings 8;
Serving Size 3/4 cup (154g); Calories 480; Calories from fat 330; Total fat 37g; Cholesterol 45mg; Sodium 550mg; Carbohydrate 24g; Dietary Fiber 2g.

Need any spices for this recipe?

Spice Price Quantity
Celery Seed Whole .9 oz. 1/4 cup jar $2.85
Penzeys Freshly Ground Pepper 1.1oz 1/4 cup jar $3.45

Basmati Rice
and Chicken Salad

Pat shares, "This is easily doubled or tripled. When doubling, I add different kinds of beans (black, red or white) for variety. More than one can of garbanzos is overwhelming. If serving the next day, dress with just 3/4 of the dressing and reserve the last 1/4 to refresh it right before serving."

  • 1 Cup uncooked white or brown basmati rice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (3/4 tsp. MINCED GARLIC)
  • 2-3 Cups chopped cooked chicken meat, no skin
  • 1/2 Cup thinly sliced green onions (4-6 green onions)
  • 1/4 Cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (drain well if oil-packed)
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh lemon rind (1/2 tsp. LEMON PEEL rehydrated in 2 tsp. water)
  • 1 16 oz. can chickpeas (garbanzos), drained
  • 1 8 oz. can or bottle artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 Cup chicken broth
  • 3 TB. lemon juice (juice of 1/2 lemon)
  • 3 TB. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. TURKISH OREGANO

Cook the rice with the garlic, according to package directions. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes after cooking. Cool in a large bowl. Add the cooked chicken, onions, tomato, lemon rind, chickpeas and artichokes. Stir gently to combine. Combine all of the dressing ingredients and mix well. Drizzle over the salad to coat.

Prep. time: 15 minutes + chicken cooking time if starting with raw chicken
Cooking time: 15-45 minutes (starting with white or brown rice)
Serves: 6

Nutritional Information: Servings 6;
Serving Size 1 cup (271g); Calories 410; Calories from fat 100; Total fat 11g; Cholesterol 65mg; Sodium 810mg; Carbohydrate 49g; Dietary Fiber 5g.

Need any spices for this recipe?

Spice Price Quantity
Garlic Minced 1.2 oz. 1/4 cup jar $3.79
Lemon Peel .9 oz. 1/4 cup jar $4.35
Penzeys Freshly Ground Pepper 1.1oz 1/4 cup jar $3.45
Oregano Broken Leaf Turkish .2 oz. 1/4 cup jar $2.29