Fort Wayne – Deb Luzadder, 60, is the food service manager of Lake James Christian Assembly Youth Camp and Retreat Center on Lake James in Angola.
Looking out the wall of windows on the lower level of the center, Luzadder smiles and says, This is our million-dollar view. Right across (Lake James) is Pokagon Inn.
In addition to being the food service manager, Luzadder is the head cook.
I’m here most of the days through the weekends. I have clean-up responsibilities on the weekend and purchasing. In the summertime, I have three assistants. They each have their own area to take care of. On the weekends, we hire people to help out. (They’re) mostly high school- to college-age kids.
While the weekends are the busiest times for Luzadder, she says that between youth camps and adult retreats throughout the year, she may serve between 65 to 350.
During the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the center sponsors 18 Christmas dinners.
According to John Love, a past manager and executive director of the camp and retreat, the center may feed about 800 people during that time period.
We have an appetizer bar with 11 different appetizers. Our main dishes, we have two, with a potato and vegetable. And we do a dessert tray of seven different desserts, Luzadder says. The challenge is we have to carry everything up and down the stairs to and from the kitchen.
Although her husband, Clyde, is retired, Luzadder does not intend to retire.
She says: I want to tell you that I don’t think of this as a job but a ministry. A lot of people in Christian camping have to have that mindset or it can cause a burnout. I feel like the Lord led me here. I love it here.
Q. What do you do to keep meals healthy?
A. I try to plan a balanced meal as well as a colorful meal. Being in the position I’m in, we deal with food allergies. In the summer and weekends we offer a full-blown salad bar.
Q. What’s your go-to meal?
A. The kids (at camp) love when I have taco bash. We have soft and hard shells. For weekend retreats, we offer two entrées. That way they have a choice. They love the churros – a Mexican cinnamon pastry. The kids expect homemade cinnamon rolls in the summer. I used to use the frozen bread dough and frozen pizza crusts, but went to making it from scratch. It’s added five hours to my weekly schedule.
Q. Who’s your cooking idol?
A. My mentor is definitely (caterer) Lana Miller. I worked for her for about 20 years when we lived in Bluffton.
Q. What’s your favorite cooking utensil?
A. The food processor. (Luzadder uses four in the center’s kitchen.) Of course, I love the big mixer. When I’m making 300 rolls and, you know, when the recipe calls for 57 cups of flour
Q. What advice do you have for beginner cooks?
A I tell them it’s not rocket science. Don’t be afraid to try. Cooking is not a science – baking is – but cooking is not.
Q. What one word would describe your cooking style?
A. Freelance. Last Saturday, I started the fried apples. I put in the apples and a stick of butter. I put an assistant on to stir it. As they’re frying up, I’m coming up behind (the assistant) and putting in cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and maple sprinkles. I don’t measure anything. I didn’t then. (chuckles)
Peanut Butter Pie
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, divided
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 (9-inch) pie crust, baked and cooled (recipe can also be made in a graham cracker crust)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup peanut butter
12 ounces non-dairy whipped topping
Melt chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon butter; stir to combine. Add powdered sugar and then stir in water until smooth and easy to spread. Coat bottom of pie crust with mixture. Chill. In a heavy saucepan, combine remaining butter and brown sugar; cooking over high heat until butter is melted and mixture is smooth. Stirring frequently. Cool 10 minutes. In large bowl, mix peanut butter and brown sugar mixture. Beat 1 minute at medium speed. Add non-dairy whipped topping. Beat 1 minute on low speed until creamy. Pour into crust and chill. Cut pie into small pieces as it is very rich. Top with additional whipped topping, chocolate syrup and shaved chocolate, if desired. Makes 10 to 12 servings.
LJCA House Salad Dressing
1 cup sugar
1 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons minced garlic
4 cups vegetable oil, divided
2 cups fresh parmesan cheese
1 cup feta cheese with basil and tomato
In a food processor, process sugar, vinegar, salt and garlic on high for 60 seconds. With processor on, slowly add 2 cups oil and parmesan cheese. Process for 45 seconds. Add feta cheese and process another 60 seconds. Add 2 more cups of oil and process 45 seconds. Makes 1/2 gallon of dressing.
Serving suggestion: Serve on romaine lettuce mix. Make croutons out of whole grain breads like rye, pumpernickel and sourdough that are spread with butter and dusted with garlic powder and seasoned salt, cubed and then baked until crisp. Toss enough dressing on lettuce mix to moisten lettuce and top with croutons.
Crusted Chicken Breast with Creamy Vegetable Relish
1 cup Cap ’n Crunch cereal
1 cup Rice Krispies cereal
2 cups cheese-flavored crackers
1 cup french-fried onions
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
12 chicken skinless and boneless chicken breasts, halved
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
In food processor, crush cereals, crackers and fried onions. Mix with bread crumbs, sesame seeds, parsley flakes, salt and pepper in bowl. Pat chicken breasts dry. Spread thin layer of mayonnaise on one side of each piece and place mayonnaise side down in the cracker mixture. Spread thin layer of mayonnaise on other side of chicken. Cover with cracker mixture, patting firmly into the chicken. Place chicken breast on sprayed baking sheet. Sprinkle remaining cracker mixture on top; lightly spray chicken with cooking spray. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for about 15 minutes or until chicken juice runs clear and no longer pink in center. Mix relish and serve along side the chicken. Makes 24 servings.
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/8 cup chopped red onion
1 cup sour cream
1 green onion, sliced thin with green top
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped yellow pepper
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Italian dressing
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
Mix all ingredients together and serve with chicken.
TidbitsI still want to learn
A. Cake decorating, but I recently learned it. I like trying new things. Last year, it was rock climbing and before that parasailing. Recently, I was with friends and thought, I really need to be trying something new, but I don’t know what it is.
I can’t wait to
A. Go on another cruise. I wanted to go on a cruise for the food. It was a Bill and Gloria Gaither cruise.