It takes a village to raise a child, they say.

Also possibly to feed one.

And when you have a 11/2-year-old great-grandchild, a 4-year-old grandson, two grown grandchildren and three other children still living, plus spouses, it definitely feels like a village.

But that’s life. At least it is for longtime Yakima resident, author and Yakima Herald-Republic columnist Donna Scofield.

At age 75, Scofield has found herself lending a hand in raising 11/2-year-old Roman, whom she and her husband care for two days a week, and trying to reinvigorate her kitchen after several years of empty nesting.

“It’s strange to be doing it again after all these years,” Scofield says. “Now it’s trying to remember what is it that they like to eat when they start to eat with their fingers?”

Thankfully, Scofield has a lifetime of raising kids and an arsenal of cookbooks and family favorite recipes under her belt to give her an edge.

It’s a far cry from when she was a young bride trying to feed her new husband.

She attributes her lack of knowledge in the kitchen to her mother, who, she said, did not encourage “possible competitors in her kitchen, so I went into marriage fairly helpless.” But Scofield didn’t let her limited experience be a hindrance. Instead she developed a slightly risky, creative cooking style that has led to some failed experiments, plenty of happy accidents, and a very forgiving cooking policy: “Don’t be afraid of failure, because everybody has them.”

Wise advice for any beginner cook.

She also has some other basic cooking rules.

“If it’s got more than 15 ingredients, I’m not going to touch it,” she says. “Life is not long enough to devote to that.”

Her other tip? Don’t be afraid to make substitutions for things, particularly if a recipe calls for an ingredient you know your family has an aversion to. Just swap it out for something else — but try to remember what that something else was. Scofield says she’s had plenty of hits at the table that she couldn’t replicate later because she rarely sticks to a recipe.

And don’t think that being a good cook means cooking everything from scratch.

“Don’t let yourself be tied to the kitchen,” Scofield advises. “Heavens, you can do so many wonderful things with a cake mix. Why would you want to spend all that time in the kitchen?”

Having a free-spirited kitchen philosophy has led Scofield to some great successes: She’s won several recipe contests, including $100 for a strata recipe in Good Housekeeping and an honorable mention for her Coconut Cloud Cookies in Country Woman magazine.

But the recipes her family loves probably aren’t winning any national awards — they are just comfort foods created out of necessity and a few oops moments gone right.

The Scofield Family Recipes

Recipe commentary by Donna Scofield

This recipe is my standby that everyone in the family loves. I made up the recipe years ago when I was secretary at an elementary school. One of the students’ favorite lunch dishes was tacos. The shaped crisp tortilla shells came in big boxes, and once one of the boxes had been damaged and consisted mostly of broken tortilla pieces. The cook knew I lived on a farm, so she gave the damaged ones to me to feed to our pigs and chickens. Before the animals got the feast, I experimented with the shells and came up with this recipe.

Now I just buy ordinary tortillas. With it I serve the same thing the kids in the cafeteria had with tacos: chopped lettuce, onions and grated cheese. I serve it in a bowl, dressed just with a little salad oil, salt and pepper, with a bottle of taco sauce at hand for those who want it.

Chicken Tortilla Casserole

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 cans cream of chicken or mushroom soup

12 corn tortillas

1 7 oz. can whole green chiles (add another small can if desired)

2 cups grated cheese

1 tablespoon taco seasoning, if desired

1/2 cup grated cheese

Simmer the chicken breasts in a small amount of water (just to barely cover) for 20 minutes or so. While they cook, grease a 9 inch square casserole dish. Tear the tortillas into small pieces and put them in the casserole. Add the grated cheese,soup and the taco seasoning (if using) and mix well. Dice the chicken breasts and add them. Rinse all the seeds off the whole chiles, then dice the chiles and add them. (If you prefer a spicy-hot dish, use chopped chiles, not whole. The heat is in the seeds.) Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate several hours or overnight until ready to bake.

Bake, covered with foil, in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until bubbly in the middle. Top with 1/2 cup grated cheese, remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes more.

I’ve never had a recipe for this next one, I don’t measure ingredients when I make it. No matter what amount I aim for, I always seem to end up with a bushel basket full. I blame this on my older son, who came home from high school one evening and told me he’d volunteered my taco salad for a Spanish Club Christmas party. “Sure,” I said, “how many kids?” His reply was “Mmm ... about 40, I guess.”

When I made our granddaughter a cookbook for Christmas after her marriage, I pared the ingredients down to serve four to six people. I usually serve it as a side dish with grilled chicken or ground beef patties, and it makes a meal.

Taco Salad

1/2 head of lettuce, chopped (or 1 small bag shredded lettuce)

2 tomatoes, diced, excess juice squeezed out

1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

1/2 onion, finely diced

1 small package Nacho-flavored Doritos

1 green pepper, chopped

1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon salad oil

1 16 oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup bottled taco sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

1 16 oz. can pitted olives, drained

Mix the lettuce, green pepper, onions and drained kidney beans in a large bowl. Reserve about 8 olives for garnish; cut the rest of them in half and add to bowl. Pour one teaspoon of salad oil over the bowl contents and mix well. (This keeps the cheese from clumping up with the lettuce.) Add grated cheese and mix again. Add tomato.

Remove about 8 large Doritos from the package for garnish, and another hefty handful to snack on. Leave the rest in the package and crush them coarsely by kneading the bag. Add them to the bowl. Mix the remaining salad oil and the bottled taco sauce and add to the salad, stirring well. Salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the remaining olives and Doritos around edge of salad and serve.

Note: If you’re making this for a picnic or to take someplace else, stop after adding the grated cheese. Mix the tomatoes, oil and taco sauce in a jar. When it’s nearly time to serve, add the coarsely crushed Doritos and the contents of the jar to the salad, garnish and serve. The salad stays crisper this way.

The dessert of choice with the casserole or with the Taco Salad was a platter of fresh fruit, arranged around a bowl of what I called Mock Devonshire Cream. The English novels I love to read talk about having Devonshire cream, strawberries and scones at tea-time, and it sounds rich and yummy. Was I ever disappointed to learn that it’s just very thick, rich, clotted (yuck!) cream, with no other flavoring. So I made this up instead. My daughter-in-law once made it to frost a cake that she decorated with fresh berries, and it was great.

Mock Devonshire Cream

1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

1 pint whipping cream, chilled

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

Teensy dash of salt

Whip the cream, then beat the cream cheese, brown sugar and vanilla into it until well blended. Refrigerate until time to serve (best if refrigerated at least an hour).

When a batch of cookies ran all over the cookie sheet, I didn’t want to waste them, so I crumbled the cookies, made an orange glaze for the top to hold the crumbs together and re-baked them for a short time. My family loved them. The problem was recreating them on purpose! After about seven tries, the family was groaning every time I baked them, but I had come very close to the original “successful disaster.” After a short revolt of refusing any cookies not containing chocolate chips, they once again love these bars. Guess they just had to cleanse their palates.

My family loves applesauce, so I seldom buy it canned to use in this or any other recipe, but make my own. I cook the apples in a little orange juice, not water, then sweeten it slightly and add cinnamon. The orange juice perks up the apple taste. If I’m going to use some for baking, I take the right amount out before adding the sugar and cinnamon.

Glazed Cranberry Bars

two large or three small oranges

½ tsp. salt

1 cup butter

½ tsp. soda

1 cup brown sugar

21/3 cups rolled oats (oatmeal)

1 egg

2 cups dried, sweetened cranberries

¾ cup unsweetened applesauce

11/2 cup chopped nuts

11/2 cup flour

1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease or spray baking oil in a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with sides. Finely grate and set aside the zest of the oranges (only the orange peel, not the white part). Squeeze the juice from the oranges (should be about 3/4 cup, but it’s OK if it’s less) and set it aside.

Cream butter, brown sugar and egg together. Add about half of the grated orange peel. Stir in applesauce. Sift the flour, soda and salt together and mix well with creamed ingredients. Stir in the oatmeal, mixing well. Stir in the cranberries and chopped nuts.

Spoon the stiff batter into prepared pan, pressing it into the corners with your fingers if necessary, and bake for about 20 minutes. While the bars bake, mix the orange juice, remaining orange zest, and sugar in a small saucepan and boil gently until mixture thickens somewhat, stirring often. Remove cookie pan from oven and pierce bars with a fork about every 1-1/2 inches.

Slowly pour the hot orange syrup over the surface of the cookies. Return to oven, lower heat to 325, and bake 15 minutes longer, or until firm and the middle tests done with a toothpick. When cool, cut into 1-1/2 inch bars.

I found this in a magazine a few winters ago and it has replaced the traditional relish tray at family holiday dinners, although I sometimes have the relish tray, too, just so people can snitch olives when they think nobody’s looking. I hate to take away their fun.

Cranberry Spinach Salad

1 package (6 oz.) fresh baby spinach

3 tablespoons sugar

½ to ¾ cup chopped pecans, toasted

2 tablespoons balsamic or red wine vinegar

½ to ¾ cup dried cranberries

2 tablespoons sour cream

1/3 cup olive or vegetable oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

In a bowl, combine the spinach, pecans and cranberries. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the remaining ingredients; shake well. Taste to see if you need to add more vinegar, according to your family’s tastes. Drizzle over salad and toss to coat.

After we enjoyed a restaurant dish of salmon with a cranberry/hazelnut sauce, I experimented with the ingredients I could identify by taste until I came up with this recipe that my husband says is even better than what we had at the restaurant. Although it was originally created to bring out the best in salmon, it is also wonderful with roast pork or baked chicken.

Pacific Coast Cranberry Sauce

1 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

¾ cup lemon juice

¾ cup chopped filberts (hazelnuts)

¾ cup honey

1 teaspoon butter

In a small saucepan, combine cranberries, lemon juice and honey; bring to a boil, stir, cover and remove from heat to let the cranberries swell. Chop filberts. Add mustard, filberts and butter to the cranberries; heat gradually. At serving time, put a large dollop of the sauce on each piece of fish or meat, and offer the remainder in a small bowl. Makes about 21/2 cups, or 8 servings.

• Savannah Tranchell can be reached at 509-577-7752 or stranchell@yakimaherald.com.