I am a country girl, born and raised on a farm in Central Iowa. I am the youngest of three children by 9 and 14 years….I was the OOPS! Being younger had its advantages in that I was an Aunt at age 7 and grew up with my niece and nephews. My Father died from a farm injury when I was 12, which forever changed my life and strengthened my bond with my Mother. I tagged along with my Mother to visit older people in our community and learned about their lives in the early 1900s, enjoying the many wonderful traditional foods and family stories.
I graduated from a class of 25, which gave me the advantage of being involved in sports and clubs that would not have been possible in a large High School. At that time, Home Ec was still an elective and I loved the cooking lessons (not so hot on the sewing classes). While at the University of Northern Iowa, I began to collect and read cookbooks. Perhaps it was the absence of Mom’s home cooking that drew me to dream about cooking (and eating) wonderful food. After college I moved to St. Joseph, MO and then to Scottsdale, AZ and began to experiment with traditional recipes and discovering those of my own. It was such an adventure to discover new dishes and restaurants in historic St. Joseph, Kansas City, then Scottsdale, Phoenix, San Diego…and the list goes on.
In the early ‘80s, I moved to Denver, got married, started my telecommunications sales career and discovered the fabulous restaurants in Denver and Aspen. My career took me to cities never before experienced and the seafood in San Francisco, Cajun fare in New Orleans, Tex-Mex in Dallas, Italian in New Jersey, etc. are experiences I will cherish. In 1986 our first daughter, Megan, was born and then Sarah in 1988. Instead of indulging in dinners out, we were cooking more at home and seeking ways to have good meals with limited time. Dinners went from adult gourmet to more kid friendly meals. Megan’s tastes were more basic while Sarah adopted a gourmet palate at an early age. At age 6 her favorite meal was steamed artichokes and crab legs with drawn butter…still her favorite. Megan’s tastes expanded rapidly when she went to college and started cooking for her roommates and now loves to whip up gourmet dishes.
I am blessed to have many gal pals that also share my passion for good food. I love to try new restaurants and look forward to the ‘pot luck’ feasts at our book club meetings and other gatherings. It isn’t just the good food that brings us to together, but the great love and admiration we all have for each other.
We are addicted foodies…but we try to remember our 12-step foodie program is needed.
God grant me the serenity to only eat the food that I LOVE,
the courage to walk away from junk food,
and the wisdom to recognize the difference. Oh YEAH!
Pasta with Bacon Cream Sauce is a family favorite, one I have made for well over 30 years. When I was working and the kids were at home, this was an easy weeknight dinner that pleased everyone. Now that my daughters have families of their own, this is a favorite of the next generation. Feel free to increase the amount of bacon or cheese to your liking.
Pasta with Bacon Cream Sauce
1 lb. vermicelli or very thin spaghetti
1/4 pound bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 tablespoons butter
6 scallions, trimmed and cut into strips
1 cup heavy cream
ladle of pasta water
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Saute bacon until crisp. Remove bacon; add butter and scallions; saute 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in cream, pasta water and pepper. Hold over low heat.
Cook and drain pasta. Add to cream mixture; toss together.
Add all but 1 tablespoon bacon, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese and parsley, toss.
Serve at once, garnished with bacon and remaining Parmesan cheese.
Recipe from long ago and far away…but oh, so good!
Beer Bread is so ridiculously easy and delicious. Friends tell me they made this years ago, so why have I never heard of it? It’s wonderful with soups and out of this world toasted! I’m not a beer drinker but had a few bottles in the frig from friend’s visits. Great way to use the beer and enjoy the tasty results! I love it toasted with peanut butter or jelly!
Unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
3 cups all-purpose flour (see Tip)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 (12-ounce) can beer (the blander the better)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (optional)
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan and dust with cornmeal. For stovetop baking, use a heavy Dutch oven or similar pot that has been greased and dusted with cornmeal but not heated.
Mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and stir in the beer. Place batter in the pan. Oven baking will take about 35 minutes. For stovetop baking, cover the pan and place it on a heat shield over a low to medium flame and bake until a knife or cake tester comes out clean.
Remove from pan, drizzle with butter if desired and allow to cool completely before slicing. The bread has a texture similar to that of English muffins and tastes best toasted.
Three cups of self-rising flour can be substituted. Omit the baking powder and salt.
Beef & Noodles is a delicious comfort food that was a new experience for me. The beef broth was deliciously rich and yummy over mashed potatoes. I grew up on Chicken & Noodles over mashed potatoes, a family favorite. This dinner was shared with my daughters and we all agreed, Chicken & Noodles is still our favorite although we enjoyed this dish immensely.
Beef & Noodles
Beef Chuck Roast
1 onion (chopped)
4 large garlic cloves (minced)
8 cups of beef stock
32 oz. frozen egg noodles
Salt and Pepper
Oil for searing and sautéing.
Season chuck roast liberally with salt and pepper.
Add oil (I used Avocado Oil) to pan and sear roast on all sides. Remove from pan.
Add additional oil and sauté onion until translucent, add garlic and sauté for 1-2 minus (until fragrant). Add roast back to pan and pour 1. 5 cups of beef broth. Turn pan to medium low and cook for 5-6 hours or until chuck roast is tender.
Remove chuck roast from pot and shred. Skim fat from remaining broth (or run it through a fat separator) then add shredded beef back to pot along with remaining 6.5 cups of beef broth. Once boiling add in the thawed noodles and cook until desired consistency.
These applesauce muffins are delicious and were compliments of daughter, Megan. She has used the Deceptively Delicious cookbook since her kids were born and everything she has made is delicious. I especially liked the streusal topping. Yummy and great with a cup of coffee or a glass of milk.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray or line with paper baking cups.
To make the topping, stir together the oats, sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir in the margarine.
To make the batter, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl or zipper-lock bag and stir or shake to mix. In a second bowl, mix the applesauce with the milk, vegetable puree, sugar, oil and egg with a wooden spoon. Add the flour mixture slowly, stirring until just moistened. Do not overmix–the batter is supposed to be lumpy.
Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and sprinkle with the streusel topping. Bake until the topping is lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the muffins, 18-20 minutes. Turn the muffins out onto a rack and serve warm or cool.
White Chicken Chili is a stick to your ribs, flavorful soup for cold weather. The original recipe does not have corn and thickens the chili with flour and milk. I chose to add cream cheese, inspired by other recipes. I serve with cilantro, cheese and chips but add whatever inspires you.
A great recipe to make for a crowd, perhaps New Years Day!
Crockpot White Chicken Chili
1 lb. chicken breasts (~2 large chicken breasts)
15 oz. can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn, drained
4 oz. can chopped green chiles
1-2 fresh jalapenos, seeded then minced (use 1 for mild chili)
Czech recipes of all types are fun for me to make and eat. December 2021 I joined Sokol San Francisco for their Christmas cookie webinar. It was a wonderful class and I chose to make the Vanilkove Rohlicky. The burst of lemon in every bite is so refreshing and delicious. The substitution of almonds for walnuts was delicious as well. I’ve attached a link to the full YouTube video to enjoy!
CZECH VANILKOVE ROHLICKY
240 g flour, sifted
180 g butter, room temperature (increase by 2 tbsp. if using almonds)
120 g ground walnuts (I used almonds)
60 g sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. lemon zest (optional)
vanilla sugar & confectioner’s sugar for coating
Preheat over to 350 degrees F.
Grind nuts to course texture.
Mix ground nuts with sifted flour, egg yolks, sugar and butter (cut into smaller pieces). Add lemon zest. (My cookies were a little dry, so I added juice of 1/2 a lemon).
Work into smooth dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days ahead of baking.
Divide the dough into four pieces. Roll each into a strand about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. Cut the strand into small equal-size pieces (about 1/2 inch).
Roll each piece into a ball then flatten between your hands. Press side of cookie inward to make a crescent shape. Don’t make them too long and skinny since they will break very easily.
Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Let cool slightly, but still warm, roll each crescent in a bowl of confectioner’s sugar mixed with vanilla sugar. You can also sift the sugar mixture over the baked cookies.
Our family stories are filled with memories of great good, many of which are family traditions handed down from our ancestors. Vianočka is a Czech/Slovak Christmas bread, similar to other Christmas breads that I enjoyed in my childhood. My Mother and later myself, would make a Norwegian version Julakake.
Global Slovakia hosted an online cooking class last December taught by Lenka of wanderingsenses.com, walking through the making of this delicious, light bread. This was the first time I ever braided a bread. It wasn’t perfect, but pretty good for a first attempt. As I was making, and later eating, this bread, it made me wonder if this was a bread that my Czech and Slovak ancestors would have made.
500g all-purpose or pastry flour
220-250g whole milk, at room temperature
30g fresh yeasts or 12g active dry yeasts
100g sugar, white
110g butter, unsalted, melted and cooled down
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 whole egg, at room temperature
Zest from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons rum-soaked raisins, optional
1 tablespoon almond slices
1 whole egg, for egg wash
1 tablespoon powdered sugar, for dusting
1. Start with pre-hydrating your yeasts. In a small bowl combine together 100g of milk with 20g of sugar. Heat it up until warm (not boiling) and stir a couple times to dissolve the sugar. Mix in 12g of dry or 30g of fresh yeasts, cover the bowl with a clean towel/ clean plate and let it rest for ~ 10 minutes until frothy
2. In a meantime, in the bowl of your standing mixer or in any bigger mixing bowl combine together 500g of flour (sift the flour into the bowl), 80g of sugar, 8g of salt and zest from 1 lemon. Mix well with a spoon or whisk. Pour in 120g of milk (eventually you might add another 20-30g of Milk, depending on the texture of the dough), 110g of melted butter, 2 egg yolks, 1 whole egg and yeasts mixture. Start kneading the dough with a hook attachment or with your hand for approximately 8-10 minutes until fully incorporated, smooth, silky and not sticking to your hands or to the sides of your standing mixer. Try to resist from adding unnecessary extra flour to the dough. After a few minutes of kneading you’ll start strengthening a gluten and the dough will become more elastic and less sticky. Cover the bowl with a clean towel or plate and let it prove in a warm place for next 60-90 minutes or until double in size
3. Once the dough is well proved, it’s time to shape Vianočka. Divide the dough into 5 equal-size balls and if you’re using Rum-soaked raisins, divide them equally and incorporate into individual doughs at this stage. Roll each of 5 dough balls out into five equal-length coils (long ~ 40cm/ 16 inch). Braid 3 coils together into a tail and transfer it carefully on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Twist rest two coils around each other and place them on top of the three-coil tail and tackle to hold together. Cover your Vianočka with a clean towel and let it prove for the the second time for ~ 45 minutes to one hour
4. To bake Vianočka, preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit/ 200° Celsius. Brush your bread generously with an Egg Wash and sprinkle your Vianočka with some Almond Slices. Place it into the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 375° Fahrenheit/ 190° Celsius. Bake for ~ 35-45 minutes, depending on the size of your Vianočka Once baked, let it cool down, dust with some Powdered Sugar (if preferred), slice and enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee by itself or with a butter & jam on top
A tangy, yet spicy jelly on top of a mild cheese is such a wonderful appetizer. I’ve enjoyed many of these appetizers through the years but Christmas 2021, I made my own! After the epic fail of Grape Jalapeno jam a few years ago, I was a little nervous. Never fear, this recipe is a winner! Other than cleaning and chopping the jalapenos, this was an easy recipe and yielded 7 half pints of Jelly and a little more to enjoy immediately! It was wonderful on top of cream cheese or brie. It would be marvelous with chicken or fish, too.
It you make homemade Christmas gifts, I would highly recommend this for friends and family!
Cranberry Pepper Jelly
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (I used a 12 oz. package of fresh cranberries)
1 cup jalapeno
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup water
4 cups sugar
6 tbsp. Ball RealFruit™ Low or No-Sugar Pectin
Sort & wash cranberries. Measure pectin and add 1/2 cup sugar to it.
Add vinegar and water to large stock pot.
Chop and remove seeds from jalapenos. 1 cup of jalapenos makes a fairly mild jelly.
Add peppers and cranberries to the vinegar and water to pan.
Bring to boil.
Simmer for about 10 minutes until everything is soft.
Strain out the cranberries and pepper mixture with a slotted spoon to a food processor or blender.
Blend until very smooth. (you can add some of the liquid from the pan to help break up the cranberries and peppers, if you need to)
Return to the saucepan.
Add sugar/pectin mixture. Bring to rolling boil.
Add the remainder of the sugar.
Bring back to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute.
Fill hot jam into hot jars.
Attach lids. Tighten bands finger tip tight.
Process in water bath canning pot for 15 minutes. Turn of heat, allow jars to sit in hot water for at least 5 minutes.