Good attitude goes a long way Food: When Joan Scott-Cruise cooks for crowds, she pours her own happiness into the task.

Kitchen Encounter

December 10, 1997|By Maria Hiaasen | Maria Hiaasen,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

She may not wear a halo, but Joan Scott-Cruise is definitely an angel. What else would you call a woman who treats co-workers to her baked goodies year round and invites 250 friends and acquaintances to an annual Christmas open house? Did I mention that during this hectic month she also invites kids from her church over and teaches them how to make gingerbread houses and that -- weather permitting -- she gets up on Christmas morning to smoke a turkey on the grill?

Tell her she's too good to be true, and Scott-Cruise -- on a break from ironing her Christmas curtains -- just shrugs.

"A lot of people don't cook from scratch, and they think if you do, it's something so extraordinary," she says. "It really isn't."

Not surprising, this full-time claims examiner for Social Security Disability spends Sundays after church in her Pikesville kitchen preparing the week's meals for her husband, Martin, and herself.

When the Smith-Cruise children visit (she has a daughter, three stepchildren, three informally adopted daughters plus their three children, whom she calls her grandchildren), they know they'll leave with a goodie bag. Maybe she'll stuff it with honey-Dijon chicken wings or barbecued ribs along with a slab of sweet potato pound cake or creamy apple bars.

Is there a cooking task too tall for this woman? Don't think so. Two years ago, she baked and froze dishes five months ahead of time to supply the 300 diners attending her father's 70th birthday picnic. Her three freezers accommodate such endeavors.

No fast food or microwaveable entrees in this household. Smith-Cruise prefers pouring herself into real cooking.

"I might be singing or thinking good thoughts or just listening to good music, and it goes right in," she says. "I believe your attitude goes into your food."

At 53 and a self-taught cook, Smith-Cruise hopes to study at a culinary arts college by the time she reaches 60.

"It might be one class, or it might be one semester," she says. "I just want to do it just to know if I can."

Creamy Apple Squares

1 (18 1/4 ounce) yellow cake mix

1 cup baking mix (Bisquick)

1/2 cup margarine

4-5 medium apples, peeled, sliced thinly and sprinkled with 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

2 cups sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cake mix, baking mix and margarine until crumbly. Set aside 3/4 cup of the crumbs, and pat the rest into the bottom of a lightly greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Layer sliced apples coated with sugar and cinnamon on top. Beat the eggs and sour cream together, then spread mixture over the apples. Combine reserved crumbs with 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup quick cooking oats and 2 tablespoons of margarine. Sprinkle on top of sour cream layer. Bake 40 to 45 minutes. Cool, then cut into squares.

Pub Date: 12/10/97

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