|Deb Erfman ladles up
golden onion soup. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
When it comes to cooking, the employees at Wood Lane are an over-achieving bunch. That’s been firmly
After all, three or four of them have had recipes in the Cook’s Corner in the past year alone.
Even better, much of that kitchen time is tied to a worthy cause, the fight against cancer.
Now we can add Deb Erfman’s name to the list of "good cooks for a cause."
Her Golden Onion Soup was featured on the menu at the Dec. 13 Soup Cook-off and Candy Sale that the Nancy
Ullum Relay for Life team hosted on Dec. 13.
Most members of the Ullum team work at Wood Lane and they’re known for egging each other on to support
the American Cancer Society’s premiere fundraising event.
"I happen to be the team captain for the Nancy Ullum Relay for Life Team this year," Erfman
Her team always takes part in the annual Relay for Life of Southern Wood County, held in May at Bowling
Green High School.
"We’re very competitive. The actual Relay season doesn’t kick off until Jan. 16, but we like to get
started a little earlier."
A separate story on this page offers details about this Thursday’s kick-off rally, slated for 6 p.m. at
the Holiday Inn Express, which will also have a soup cook-off component.
Each fall, the Nancy Ullum teammates put together their own soup cook-off in advance of the main event.
"It’s a kick-off to the holiday season – just to get people warmed up. It’s just good cheer."
Their recent cook-off raised a little over $1,500, as a healthy start toward the team’s anticipated total
for this year.
"We always have a goal. Last year it was a $12,000 goal and we exceeded that, but it was kind of
Among the soups featured at their recent cook-off were Cheeseburger Soup by Ashleigh Hernandez, this
year’s winner; Stuffed Green Pepper Soup by Mary Banks Partlow; Chicken Gnocchi Soup by Tina Veverka;
and more than half a dozen others.
Erfman started with a recipe for onion soup taken from the Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook, but made a few
adjustments and additions to personalize her entry.
"I adapted a little bit with finely shredded mozzarella cheese and croutons, making it a Cheesy
Golden Onion Soup for those that chose to have cheese."
A Tiffin native and current Bowling Green resident, Erfman has worked for Wood Lane since 1993.
"I am a house supervisor, and I love it. There are some days the consumers (house residents) teach
me more than I can ever teach them."
Erfman originally earned a degree in law enforcement from Owens Community College, but soon realized that
working with folks at Wood Lane was her calling.
It was 2007 when her connection to the national fight against cancer became personal.
"I was diagnosed with breast cancer that year and a good friend pulled me into the Relay for Life
and said, ‘you need to get involved.’
"So we started with the soup event, and we added a cookie sale in 2008.
"This year we tried something a little different – candy stations. People would come up and buy
exactly what they wanted, 50 cents a pound," from an array of homemade candies.
"The soup cook-off part was from 11 to 1. With my onion soup I took croutons and shredded cheese,
since I didn’t have a toaster oven (on site) to brown the cheese.
"It’s a new recipe for me. I tried it at home once. No way I was going to go in blind."
When it proved a hit there, she brought it to the cook-off.
"Everybody loved it."
Erfman said that typically she’s been "so busy with the baked goods" end of the sale that is
the other half of the Wood Lane event. "But this year, with my son being gone, I made the candies
early and had time to make the soup as well."
Her son, 19-year-old Pfc. John Shrode, is currently serving in the Marine Corps. He graduated from BGHS
on May 31, headed to basic training at Parris Island, S.C. in June, and is currently receiving advanced
training in 29 Palms, Calif.
He was able to be home on leave over the holidays and Erfman delighted in cooking up a mini storm for a
New Year’s Eve gathering for Shrode and some of his friends.
She made sure to include the buffalo chicken bits, meatballs-in-the-crockpot, homemade cookies and
cheeseball the hungry young people were anticipating.
Now it’s back to soup season, with Golden Onion Soup permanently in rotation.
"I thought it was pretty easy to make, just very simple."
It’s "a pretty filling" soup, so Erfman would advise simply serving it with a side salad,
"maybe with a little hard boiled egg and maybe ham on top," and add garlic bread as a
"Good for a cold evening at home."
Golden Onion Soup
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 2 hours, 50 minutes
Makes 6 servings, about 1 cup each
Parmesan Croutons (I bought these pre-made)
1?4 cup margarine or butter
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 large onions (3/4 lb. each), cut into fourths and sliced
2 cans (101?2 ounces each) condensed beef broth
2 soup cans water
1. Prepare Parmesan Croutons; reserve.
2. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
3. Melt margarine in ovenproof Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce.
Toss onions in margarine mixture.
4. Bake uncovered about 21?2 hours, stirring every hour, until onions are deep golden brown. Stir in
broth and water. Heat to boiling. Serve with Parmesan Croutons.
Optional: In addition to croutons, top with finely shredded mozzarella cheese.