Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Home for the Holidays; Food Edition

               The holidays are here... almost.  I know many of you are probably thinking "But Theresa, Thanksgiving is still a month away."  And while that is true, there is another holiday just right around the corner: Dia de los Muertos or for my non-Spanish speaking readers Day of the Dead.  Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday to honor family members who have passed away.  Altars are made honoring the loved ones and a special bread is prepared.  I learned about this holiday in high school while studying Spanish.  There is more to this special holiday but it's been a long time since high school and I can't remember all of the details.  Of course, I remember the part about the food.  I want to celebrate other cultures' holidays and learn to make the traditional foods.  I think it would be a great way to teach our kids about different cultures' celebrations and traditions.  A few years ago, I did a search on for the bread that is prepared for Dia de los Muertos.  I made it and took it to work for the Spanish interpreters to try.  I wanted to make sure that the recipe was authentic.  It was given their stamp of approval and I was thrilled.  It's been a few years since I've made it but I plan on making it this year.  The recipe is as follows:

Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead)
1/4 C margarine (I always use butter in my baking)
1/4 C milk
1/4 C warm water
3 C flour
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp anise seed
1/4 C sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp orange zest
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C orange juice
1 tbsp orange zest
2 tbsp sugar

Heat the milk and butter in a medium saucepan until butter melts.  Remove from heat and add warm water.  Mixture should be 110 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and 1/4 cup sugar.  Beat in the warm milk mixture.  Then add eggs and orange zest (2 tsp) and beat until well combined.  Stir in 1/2 cup flour and continue adding more flour until the dough is soft.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.  Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until dough is doubled in size (about 1-2 hours).  Punch down dough.  Shape into a large round loaf with a a round knob on top.  Place onto a baking sheet and let rise until doubled in size (about 1 hour).  Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-45 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Let cool slightly and brush with glaze.

Pan de Muertos glaze
In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup of sugar, orange juice and orange zest.  Bring to a boil over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Brush over top of bread while warm.  Sprinkle with white sugar.   

I know some of you are probably thinking "Anise seed?  Doesn't that have the same flavor as black licorice? No thanks!".  And you're right, it does but try the bread anyways.  I don't like black licorice.  In fact, I hate it and I still love this bread.  The orange zest and the glaze balance out the anise seed flavor.

         As you all know (and are probably sick of hearing about), we host Thanksgiving for Steve's side of the family.  As a result, I'm always on the look-out for new Thanksgiving-themed recipes.  My older sister told me about the blog Budget Bytes.  This blog is about eating tasty healthy food on a budget.  We could all use help with that area!  This blog has a section for Thanksgiving and a section called Pumpkin Recipe Round-up 2012.  Each section has a bunch of pumpkin recipes which I'm anxious to try.  (Stay tuned for more blogs about those!)  The Thanksgiving section also has recipes for cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing, turkey and biscuits.  Check it out.  It seems pretty cool.  Disclaimer: I have not tried any of the recipes or read them in depth yet.  Steve and I are working on finding recipes and foods that will become traditions for our Thanksgiving.  We're having fun experimenting with serving different foods and seeing which ones will stick.  I'll do a blog post about our Thanksgiving later in the year.

      How many of you think of Christmas when drinking hot chocolate?  I don't know why I do.  It wasn't something my family traditionally drank on Christmas.  Hot chocolate makes me think of cold snowy days and being curled up in a blanket watching a movie.  Now hot chocolate mixes are perfectly fine... but so is this recipe:

Mexican Hot Chocolate
3 tbsp instant hot cocoa mix
1 tbsp chocolate syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch chili powder
1/4 C milk
3/4 C boiling water

In a large mug, mix the hot cocoa mix, chocolate syrup, cinnamon and chili powder.  Add the boiling water and stir.  Add in the milk and stir.

I doubt this recipe is an authentic Mexican drink.  I did make a few changes to the recipe above.  I made the milk and water about half and half to make the drink a little richer.  It's slightly watery if you follow the recipe exactly.  I also wait to add the chocolate syrup until after the milk and water have been mixed with the spices.  It just works better this way.  This hot chocolate recipe has a nice spicy flavor courtesy of the chili powder.  I know it seems a little weird to put chili powder in a drink but the cinnamon balances it out nicely. Give it a try!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Pumpkin for All

                 Happy Fall!!!  I'm enjoying this fall, especially because I got to bring my baby home from the hospital.  It was still summer when she was born and the seasons changed while she was in the NICU.  When we brought her home, I decided to enjoy this fall season for the blessing it was and because I'm currently on maternity leave.  I haven't ventured outside very much because I don't want to expose Katherine to germs for the first few weeks.  With that in mind, I've had to bring the fall season indoors... in a small way.  I do have a newborn after all!  I decided to make pumpkin pancakes for lunch on Sunday.  I've always liked the flavor of pumpkin.  When I was younger I didn't think much past pumpkin pie, which I loved and looked forward to every Thanksgiving.  Over the past few years, I've had fun finding pumpkin recipes.  Recipes like this Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe that was modeled after the Starbucks latte (I have no idea how it measures up... I don't go to Starbucks.) and this Pumpkin Pie Smoothie recipe.  I de-veganize these recipes when I make them... partly because I'm not vegan, partly because I don't have the ingredients for them to be vegan. I'm extremely grateful for my cousin Angie's secret pumpkin bar recipe which I blogged about here.  The bars are amazing and I love sharing a secret with my family members.  Sharing the recipe made me feel like Angie was right next door instead of in Virginia where she lives with her family.
                I've gotten extremely off-track... sorry!  But thanks for taking that little detour with me!  Back to the pumpkin pancakes.  I decided to make them before I actually had a recipe so I turned to my trusty recipe search engine,  If you haven't visited this site, do.  Just make sure you don't have anything to do or anywhere to go for the next hour.  It's that addictive.  I found this recipe for pumpkin pancakes:

Pumpkin Pancakes with Nutmeg Whipped Cream

2 1/3 C pancake mix
2 1/2 tbsp white sugar
1/3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 eggs
1 1/4 C milk
1/3 C canned pumpkin
1/4 C vegetable oil

Nutmeg Whipped Cream
1 C whipping cream
2 tbsp white sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

The directions for the recipe were pretty standard: mix the dry ingredients, mix the wet ingredients and then mix the two together.  Being me, I made a few changes.  I used a 1/2 cup of pumpkin rather than 1/3 cup based on the recipe reviews.  I also used 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and ginger.  This was not for any reason relating to flavor.  I just don't have a measuring spoon for 1/3 teaspoon.  In fact, this was the first recipe I've seen to call for that measurement.  I also used 1 1/2 cups milk... just so I wouldn't have a 1/4 cup of milk left in the fridge.    I did sift the dry ingredients because Bisquick tends to be clumpy and I didn't want to have to deal with clumps in the batter.  I mixed the batter and had 4 pancakes on the griddle and Katherine started to fuss.  I turned the reins over to Steve so I could feed her.  He finished cooking the pancakes and we sat down to lunch.  The pancakes have a very subtle pumpkin flavor.  The flavor does build with each pancake you eat.  These are an excellent addition to any fall baking and cooking you might be doing.  In fact, Steve and I both thought at the same time about serving these for Thanksgiving breakfast.  We did have left-overs which we've safely put away in the freezer for Thanksgiving morning.  I hope these pancakes will become a traditional part of our Thanksgiving.

(Side note about the whipped cream: You'll notice I didn't mention it at all.  That's because I didn't make it due to the lack of whipping cream.  Hopefully I'll remember to buy some for Thanksgiving!)

Friday, October 12, 2012

I'm Back!!!!

      That's right, my faithful blog readers.  I'm finally back in the kitchen.  Having swollen ankles and later bed rest and an emergency C-section prevented me from cooking very much this past year.  But this week is my return to the kitchen.  Katherine came home on Saturday (yay!).  Sunday I made a menu and a grocery list and sent Steve to the store.  I'm still not ready to take Katherine out shopping... too many germs for my little NICU baby.  It's nice to have a stocked kitchen and a plan as to what we'll be eating for the week.  For the past month, I've been eating hospital food or sandwiches.  Exciting stuff, right?  Here's our menu for this week:

Monday October 8th
chicken pot pie, fruit, salad

Tuesday October 9th
grilled cheese, vegetables, fruit

Wednesday October 10th
ham steak, salad, vegetables, fruit

Thursday October 11th
chicken noodle soup, salad, fruit

Friday October 12th

Saturday October 13th
tacos, salad, fruit

Notice I've optimistically put a salad, fruit and vegetables on practically every meal.  We've already had a few meals without them but I'm still hoping we'll eat them.  On Monday my mom was visiting so I was able to teach her how to make chicken pot pie.  It was my first meal back in the kitchen and it was so fun.  I had fun showing Mom how to make it.  I promised her that it was simple and tasty.  She agreed and copied the recipe so she could make it at home.  On Tuesday I made the grilled cheese sandwiches which reminded me of when I was younger and would make them for our family.  Of course, I usually made a lot more back then.  There's quite a difference between cooking for two and cooking for five or six.  Steve made the ham steaks and chicken noodle soup.  I'm already looking forward to creating next week's menu and grocery list.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Iowa Food Banks in Need

According to this Sioux City Journal article, Governor Terry Branstad vetoed the funding of $500,000 to Iowa food banks.  This affects many of our local food banks including the Food Bank of Siouxland.  The Food Bank of Siouxland anticipated receiving $37,500 of these funds.  The governor states that the local food banks should be able to make up the money through private donations that are publicly endorsed.  I'm sure there was sound logic behind the veto.  But my heart aches for the agencies that were counting on this funding and now have to make up for it in other ways or even worse, decrease their services to the people they serve. $37,500 is a lot of money.  I will not argue that fact.  For some, it is their total household income.  For others, it is an amount much larger than their household income that they can not comprehend.  According to the Food Bank of Siouxland's most recent newsletter, $1 buys 13 pounds of food for food banks.  I can't even imagine the amount of food that $37,500 would have bought for the food bank.  But I do know that it is a lot.  This veto comes at an unfortunate time for food banks because summer is the busiest time of year.  This is due to school being out for the summer.  Families need to feed their children 3 meals a day rather than 1 because the child does not receive the school breakfast and lunch.  The amount of requests for food at the local food pantries increases as a result.  I've mentioned before that as a child, I never had to go hungry.  Our family was very fortunate.  I can't imagine the feeling of not being able to feed my family or having to go to bed without supper because there wasn't food in the pantry.  I'm asking you all to think about this the next time you're out grocery shopping or opening your cupboards to make supper. Please consider donating to your local food bank in any way you can.  This may be picking up an extra box of cereal or pasta while at the grocery store.  Or it maybe writing a check for as little as $5.  Together we can help the food banks and Iowa's hungry.

Update: I took the issue to our Employee Committee at work and we decided to do a fundraiser for the Food Bank.  Siouxland Community Health Center employees donated a total of $300!  We still need to deliver the money but I know it will help.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Excuse me while I drool...

...over the plum Fiesta Ware collection.  I was looking on the Kohl's website just now at the Fiesta Ware.  Our Kohl's does not carry the plum Fiesta Ware in their store (our Younkers does so it all evens out... I guess!).  Earlier this week I thought "we need a covered butter dish.  I wonder if Fiesta makes one in purple?"  They do!  That's the positive side.  The negative side is that the regular price is $32.  I will be waiting for an online sale and one of the handy coupons they love to email me before ordering it for myself.  It will be hard to wait.  The covered butter dish would go so well with the salt and pepper shaker and the spoon rest that Nancy gave me for a Christmas/birthday/housewarming present.  But I am determined that I will find the Fiesta Ware on sale and have a coupon for it at the same time.

My kitchen is various shades of purple because I'm obsessed with the color.  Fiesta Ware did make other shades of purple in the past but the plum collection is the only purple they are currently manufacturing.  Lilac was one of the previous purples and I would love to get my hands on some Fiesta Ware in that shade too.

I did a quick check at  The butter dish is on sale for $23.80!  The bad part: they don't carry it in plum.  Jerks.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Odds and Ends with Energy

I'm in the second trimester of my pregnancy which means the sheer exhaustion has passed!  I'm definitely enjoying having a normal energy level again.  I do realize this will probably go away when I get in the end stage of the pregnancy but for now, I'm enjoying it.  The return of my energy also means I'm back in the kitchen.  In the past week, I've made cherry layer dessert and carrot cake.  The cherry layer dessert I made for us last weekend.  The carrot cake was for Steve's team.  Remember how I'm bribing them with a homemade dessert when they win on quality? I'm about 3-4 desserts behind due to 1st trimester exhaustion.  Thankfully they understand and are happy to get their treats when I'm able to make them.  Right now, I have 2 loaves of banana bread in the oven.  Last week Fareway had bananas on sale for 35 cents a pound.  I picked some up for Steve.  I always plan to make banana bread or muffins when I buy bananas since I won't eat them raw and Steve can only eat so many.  Steve is visiting Nathan tomorrow so I plan to send a loaf with him.  Nathan's a bachelor so I doubt he gets banana bread that often.  He does make some fantastic cookies, though.  I'm serious.  If you ever have a chance to have some of his cookies, don't pass it up!

With my renewed energy, I'm also revisiting the idea of gardening and canning.  We tried to have a fruit and vegetable garden this year but failed.  Our first strike was not having any clue as to what we're doing.  Our second strike was the unseasonably warm weather we experienced in March.  The third strike was my pregnancy-related exhaustion.  All of the work fell to Steve and the garden slipped by the wayside.  However, I'm determined to have a garden next year and plan to spend the rest of this summer and all winter learning about gardening.  This means checking books out from the library and talking to successful gardeners.  My aunt Colleen suggested a book called Square Foot Gardening.  Aunt Colleen has a pretty successful garden so I plan on checking out this book.  She also suggested The Ball Blue Book of Canning.  My mom also has this book so I plan on checking it out as well.  And I'm also officially asking for your advice.  If you're a gardener or a canner, give me your best tips!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Eating for Two, Cooking for None

The secret is finally out.  I'm 12 weeks pregnant.  The first trimester has not been bad, only slight nausea.  Fortunately I did not inherit the crippling morning sickness that my older sister, my mom and my grandma all seem to experience.  I seemed to have inherited my Aunt Colleen's and Aunt Patty's version of morning sickness which is very mild.  However, I have been extremely tired.  This has led to me being completely wiped out from work by the time I get home.  Fixing supper is just not going to happen, especially if it's a long recipe. Fortunately for me, Steve is a good cook and has taken over in the kitchen.  I still help with making the menu and the grocery shopping.  As my first trimester is coming to an end, I do feel some of my energy returning and am looking forward to being back in the kitchen.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Back in the Kitchen Again

Yep, I had a brief absence from the kitchen again. We have been incredibly busy lately and I've been relying on Steve to do most of the cooking.  This isn't fair to him.  Steve is a fantastic cook.  He works just as hard as I do and deserves to have a break from the cooking too.  As many of you know, I make a weekly menu.  In addition to planning out our meals, I've started assigning who will be cooking each meal.  This keeps me accountable and puts me back in the kitchen.  My return to the kitchen was on Valentine's Day.  That was my gift to Steve.  He had been cooking practically every meal for a month.  He deserved a home-cooked meal that he didn't have to make.  For Valentine's Day I made Buffalo Baked Chicken from my Rachael Ray cookbook.  We also had corn, green beans, peaches and a lettuce salad.  For dessert, I made white chip brownies.  The chicken is good but needs a little tweaking.  The brownies were terrific.  It felt good to be back in the kitchen.  I had convinced myself that I was too exhausted and stressed out to cook in the evenings.  While it's true that I was a little tired on Valentine's Day, cooking seemed to energize me even before we sat down to eat.  Tonight was my turn to cook again.  I made spaghetti with green beans, apple sauce (Grandma's homemade!) and a lettuce salad.  It felt great to be back in the kitchen again even though I merely browned hamburger and cooked pasta.  Everything else I opened from a can or a jar.  And you know what?  That was ok with me.  I was still back in the kitchen preparing a meal for us.  While clearing the table, I had a genius idea to pack my lunch for tomorrow.  Usually I throw it together in the morning... if I have time.  I'm also making granola to go with my breakfast tomorrow.  No more plain yogurt for me.  I'm going back to adding in granola and fruit.  I'm hoping that by having a healthy breakfast and being back in the kitchen, I will feel a little bit more in control of my life.  It has been rather hectic around here and I haven't enjoyed that at all.  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

And we're in business!

Tasty Treasures has their first official customer!  Steve's employee Zach asked Steve "If I pay your wife 10 bucks, will she make that cranberry apple thing?"  He's referring to my Cranberry-Apple Chutney that I made for them at Thanksgiving and yes, if he pays me $10, I will make it for him.  I bought the ingredients on my way home from work Friday evening.  I bought enough to make a double batch since I only got a small taste the first time I made it.  Even buying double the ingredients was well under $10.  Steve took Zach's portion to work on Saturday and returned with my money.  I am very excited for this.  I've been wanting to get a side job to supplement my full-time job for awhile.  (Not that we need the money, I just want to have a little extra.)  And this is perfect.  It's something that I love to do and doesn't require a lot of work.   I told Steve that I could probably do a lot of business around Christmas-time making cookie/goody trays for people.  He agreed.  A lot of people where Steve work don't cook or bake.  They think I'm some goddess because I can.  I find it a little funny.  Cooking and baking have always been a big part of my life (thanks Mom!) and it seems odd that someone wouldn't know how.  But back to my business, I did make a tentative price sheet:

Chutney: $10
1 Dozen Cookies: $10
1 Dozen Cupcakes: $10

I know it's not very imaginative to price everything at $10 but it's a start.  I also felt asking more than $10 for a dozen cupcakes or a dozen cookies was a little pricey.  I checked a local bakery's website and priced myself a little below them.  I haven't added cakes or goody trays on there yet.  I'll price those when the time comes.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Food for Thought

    Today Steve and I thought about and talked about food a lot.  We talked about the location of my pantry and chest freezer in the basement.  There's an extra set of shelves that currently don't have a purpose that would make a perfect pantry.  However, the shelves are further into the basement than I prefer.  The shelves are pretty far away from the stairs and I don't want to have to walk all the way across my basement just to get a can of peaches, applesauce or whatever I may need at the time.  Steve said he could move them closer to the base of the stairs for me.  (He actually suggested the shelves as a pantry to start with.)  I also started cleaning my chest freezer.  The chest freezer was my grandpa's and my dad gave it to me.  It had been sitting in Dad's machine shed for awhile so it's pretty dirty.  A little cleaner and some rags, ok a lot of cleaner, and we'll be good to go.  I am excited to have an actual pantry with a freezer.  I can finally shop Fareway meat department's sales and stock up and my mom can give me some chickens from her next round and I'll actually have space.  And I can finally can my own fruit and vegetables!

This leads to the next item that Steve and I talked about today: gardening.  Our backyard already has a garden plot so the hard work is done for us.  I'm excited to have something to do outside.  After living in an apartment, I really do miss being outside.  I'm also excited that this is something Steve and I can learn together.  Hopefully it will go well.  My thumb isn't very green when it comes to house plants.

The garden also leads to another fun food thing: canning!  My mom and grandma have been canning applesauce, tomatoes, jams and pie apples for a long time.  I do have a base knowledge of canning but am excited to try it on my own.  Mom has some duplicates of the necessary canning supplies that I can borrow until I'm set up with my own system.  I told Steve we could work out a trade with Grandma and Mom for our canned goods.  I would like to can salsa, veggies and fruit.  We went shopping today and stopped by Barnes and Noble.  I picked up 2 books about canning: The Fresh Girl's Guide to Easy Canning and Preserving and Canning & Preserving All You Need to Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More.  I am excited to read both of these books.  The first book does have a section on growing a canning garden which I think will be helpful.  Both gardening and canning are new to us so we're trying to research before jumping in.

In all, I hope the pantry, the freezer, the garden and canning help with our food budget.  It's not that we have a difficult budget, I'm always trying to save money while feeding us good, healthy food.  I also hope that some of our canned goods will make nice Christmas gifts.

And in more food related news, Bobby Dean has his own cooking show: Not My Mama's Meals.  In this show, he takes some of his mom's recipes and gives them a healthy make-over.  I was excited to watch this show because while I love Paula Dean, her recipes are pretty hefty.  Today he made a healthy version of her Krispy Kreme bread pudding and called it Bobby's Lighter Fresh Fruit Bread Pudding.  The recipe seems pretty straight-forward.  However I'm not sure where we could buy plain whole wheat donuts in Sioux City.  We do have a few bakeries in town and Bobby did say you could substitute bran muffins.  But I think I can make whole wheat donuts.  We have whole wheat flour, a bread machine and a fryer so it shouldn't be too difficult.  I did a quick search for whole wheat donuts  on and didn't find any.  I did however find a donut recipe that was compared to Krispy Kreme donuts.  I think I can convert it to whole wheat and some of the comments said a bread machine could be used.  Yay!  I also found a whole wheat donut recipe on  That recipe looks pretty good too.  While we were out shopping today, we stopped by the kitchen store and bought a donut cutter.  (I also picked up a purple scraper with measuring conversions because I couldn't resist.  But that's neither here nor there for this blog post.)  I am excited to try this recipe next weekend.  And for those of you who looked at the recipe and thought "But Theresa, you don't like bananas.  Why are you excited to make a recipe with bananas?"  I'm swapping the bananas for some other fruit to be determined next weekend.  Bobby did say you could do that.