LAKE CITY - Tiffany Poen has a kitchen confession to make - "I don't really cook a lot, but I do have a sweet tooth and like to make candies and desserts."
When she does cook, her family enjoys her treats, as do judges at the Calhoun County Exposition and the Iowa State Fair.
Poen, 14, has won a number of awards, including top honors at the county fair and blue ribbons at the state fair for her luscious caramels and her creamy peanut butter fudge.
-Messenger photo by Darcy Dougherty Maulsby
Tiffany Poen said she started taking food projects to the Calhoun County Exposition four years ago and enjoys making sweet treats like Scotch Roos bars.
She's been exhibiting 4-H food projects since she was 10.
While Poen follows the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook recipe for her caramels, she said her winning fudge recipe came from Faith Blaskovich, of Lake City.
"When I took my caramels to the county fair one year," Poen said, "Faith was helping with the judging.
(This recipe came from the local Burley Family Cookbook and was one of the first recipes Tiffany Poen exhibited at the county fair. She earned an Outstanding Junior Award with these bars.)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups white syrup
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
9 cups Rice Krispies
1 package chocolate chips
1 package butterscotch chips
Boil sugar and white syrup for 3 minutes. Remove from stove and add peanut butter.
Pour mixture over Rice Krispies and place in buttered pan.
Combine chocolate chips and butterscotch chips.
Melt and spread over Rice Krispies mixture.
"She asked what I planned to take to the fair next year, and when I said candy, she suggested fudge and shared her recipe."
Poen also has a number of healthy recipes in her collection, including strawberry oatmeal breakfast smoothies made with soy milk and fruit.
Poen's smoothies helped her win a Pride of Iowa award at the county fair, as did her fruit salsa, which includes apples, strawberries and raspberries.
"You have to have at least one Iowa ingredient in your recipe to win Pride of Iowa," she said. The more Iowa ingredients you have, the better."
While Poen always hopes her culinary creations qualify for the state fair, this active member of the Jackson Pioneers 4-H Club doesn't stop with food.
She also exhibits bucket bottle calves and market steers at the Calhoun County Exposition and enjoys entering her photography in the fair.
When she's not working on 4-H projects, this busy eighth-grader plays volleyball at South Central Calhoun Middle School and is a regular at the Dance 2 Xtreme studio in Lake City, where she practices tap, ballet, hip hop, jazz/funk and performs with the competition dance team.
Poen's mother, Lynn Poen, said she appreciates her daughter's interest not only in sports and dance, but 4-H activities.
"4-H is a great way for Tiffany to set goals and learn new skills."
Poen is already thinking about the food projects she'd like to exhibit at the 2014 Calhoun County Exposition.
She said she finds inspiration on the social media site Pinterest and also credits family members who share recipes.
"I'm thinking I'd like to make chocolate caramel turtle candies," Poen said. "It's fun to try new things."