Category Archives: Cooking

Into – In the kitchen

Joe recently stumbled upon “The Mind of a Chef” on Netflix, and we’re obsessed. Season 1 follows Chef David Chang, founder of the Momofuku restaurant group, on culinary adventures that touch on food science, culture and the craft of creating world-class cuisine.

281010_287943754655346_914595738_oAnthony Bourdain is the show’s executive producer and narrator, and great chefs from around the world make appearances. It’s super fun. There are silly animations, and the passion these chefs have to play and experiment jumps off the screen.

In our own kitchen, we’ve been on a zucchini kick, and have baked several loaves of this Eating Well chocolate zucchini bread. Which we eat while watching “Mind of a Chef,” of course.

What are you watching/eating these days?

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Cinco de Mayo Treat: Sweet fruit tamales

SweetTamales

My dad’s family always used to make tamales on New Year’s Eve, but I was too young to remember being part of that tradition. So when my half-brother Bruce and his wife Donna came for a visit, I asked them to bring the family recipe.

We spent all day making a special tamale feast together from scratch. I heard that the reason lots of tamale places are closed on Tuesdays is because everyone’s arms are so tired from all of the tamale-making that happens on Mondays. I believe it!

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Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, I’m sharing the recipe for sweet  – and adorable – pineapple and golden raisin tamales.

{Bonus: They’re allergen-free} Emmett was a fan.

Sweet Tamales (yields approximately 60)

These fruit tamales are a little quicker to whip up than the meat kind, but it’s still more fun if you have a big group lending a hand. I’d recommend making the masa ahead and then gathering everyone together to fill the tamales. Play a little music and the process turns into a party. (My favorite is The David Wax Museum, a Mexican-inspired folk band with roots in Columbia, MO.)

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 Shopping list:

  • Corn husks (1 package, soaked overnight)
  • Masa (4 cups)
  • Lard (1 cup – yeah, I know!)
  • Sugar (1 cup – could probably be cut down if you use the pineapple juice)
  • Baking Powder (2 tsp)
  • Salt (2 tsp)
  • Pineapple (1 20 oz. can – crushed is best)
  • Golden Raisins (1/2 box)
  • Water (4 cups – cut if you use juice)

1. Start by combining masa, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl.

2. Using an electric mixer, whip the lard until it’s fluffy (a few minutes on a medium-low speed).

DSC_07763. Add the dry mixture to the lard and add water. Use your hands to combine. 

4. Mix in crushed pineapple (we gave the tidbits a few spins in the food processor) and half box of golden raisins.

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Keep mixing by hand. Test a tiny bit of the wet masa mixture by dropping it in a glass of water. If it floats, it’s mixed well enough! I think the trick is to try to rake/fluff it.

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5. Put a dollop of masa in the center of a husk (don’t forget to soak the husks overnight.) Wrap the husk around the masa and tie off with strips of masa, in a candy shape.

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I like to give them a good double-knot and trim the ends so everything looks neater and more compact.

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How cute are these? Come on, now. 20140504_113425

6. When you’ve assembled all of your cute little sweet tamales, it’s time to steam them.

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We fit half a batch at a time in our roaster, with 3 glasses of water poured in the bottom. Steam for about 70 minutes.

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Enjoy your tamales warm, or refrigerate/freeze them and they microwave nicely for a treat later.

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***

One of my favorite childhood memories was when we’d go to La Guadalupana in the Chicago neighborhood Pilsen and stock up on dozens of pork and chicken tamales. We’d eat one hot on the road — always washed down with a naranja Jarritos — and then freeze a few dozen for later. At home, I’d challenge myself to eat a spicy chicken tamale with a big glass of milk close at hand to cut the heat.

In Des Moines, two spots to go for authentic tamales are Tamales Industry and my favorite, La Rosa, which may have just re-opened?

Also, this is not really related, but my brother Bruce also happens to be an award-winning home brewer! He’s featured in this free University of Oklahoma online course on the Chemistry of Beer. It’s really well-done, so if you have any interest in the science of brewing, check it out.

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Pass the pancakes

Call me a weirdo, but watching my kid eat is one of my favorite parts of parenting. Seeing his reaction to different tastes and textures, how he grows more adept at picking up and maneuvering small pieces, his discovering he can attempt to slyly slip the dog a few bites — sometimes different meals feel like milestones. Add allergies to the mix, and constant redirection to make sure he’s not scratching himself silly during dinner and it’s also been pretty stressful. (We’ve found keeping a small toy on his tray also helps keep one of his hands busy so he’s less likely to scratch.)

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We took Emmett to a specialist for testing (scratch test, blood draw) a few weeks ago. It turns out little E is VERY allergic to sesame (something we suspected after his hummus episode), all nuts, chickpeas, soy, wheat, barley, garlic, oat, egg white and dog. He’s also mildly allergic to milk. We now carry Epi pens in the diaper bag.

Those results were pretty overwhelming for us, so we stocked up some books and sought out support from friends. Turns out Jen’s son has a few allergies of his own, and these days the internet abounds with recipe ideas. (Kristen recently went gluten-free!) Right now, it’s pretty manageable because we can continue to feed him his basic “paleo-esque” veggies, fruits and meats diet. When he realizes he’s once again eating sweet potatoes while his parents chow down on homemade pizza, or if he doesn’t grow out of many of these before school starts, it’s going to be a lot harder.

We’re getting creative, though. Everyone in this house, down to Wilbur, is a big fan of pancakes. Seriously, they are Wilbur’s favorite. Check out pancake crazy eye.

20140426_081432We didn’t want Emmett to miss out on a weekend treat. Joe found a Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free, soy-free pancake mix and we used a banana to bind it and watered down the required milk. They stuck a bit to the pan, but in the end tasted like little banana bread cakes!

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We’ve also tried and liked Ancient Grains garden pagodas quinoa pasta (which Joe picked up at Whole Foods) to replace his beloved rotini. Emmett snarfed quite a bit the other night and I liked what I sampled! Dole mixed fruit cups are also a great grab-and-go when we don’t have fresh pears or something on hand. They aren’t packed in syrup and don’t include artificial sweeteners, and I rinse them before serving. I got a pack at Hy-Vee.

Now soliciting ideas for a gluten, egg, soy, nut, oat, etc-free first birthday cake recipe. Thank goodness he’s cleared for chocolate! 🙂

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Sweet little giveaway

To all my friends with a sweet tooth: RUN*, don’t walk to the nearest Barnes & Noble, grocery store or Lowes and snag a copy of the Cuisine At Home “Cookies, Brownies & Bars” Summer 2014 special issue.

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*It will be on stands through late July, but you’re going to want to run in order to burn some calories before you get your buttery hands on this bad boy.

Joe brought home a few samples from test batches for me to try and I have three words for you: Puppy chow bars. Yes! These are a thing. A sweet, sweet thing.

Puppy chow was a staple treat for my high school cross country team. Our friend Carly’s mom made it for almost every meet and we’d be covered in powdered sugar after our races. It may have been 20% of the reason I ran at all.

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I’m giving away a copy of this issue to a reader who leaves her (or his) favorite dessert in the comments. You can just tell me what the dessert is, or get a bonus entry if you share or link to the recipe. Giveaway ends at midnight on Sunday, April 14. I’ll pick someone at random.

Like all Cuisine magazines, there are no ads, just awesome recipes, instructions and photos. (Joe’s job is to art direct photo shoots and design the layout.) His favorite thing in the book were the carrot cake blondies. They also have Thin Mint & Samoa (aka Carmel Delight) hacks as well as some classics and some super interesting ideas like cheddar caramel popcorn bars.

 

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Grandpa’s Irish Soda Bread Recipe

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I celebrated a bit early because Emmett and I were lucky enough to go to Chicago this past week and revel in our Irish heritage. It was great to spend time at home and with my grandpa, who is recovering from pneumonia. Luckily, he was well enough to bake his famous Irish Soda Bread with me and ham it up for the camera.

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He starred in our second cooking video as a duo, walking me (and Emmett) through his Irish Soda Bread recipe. Making the video together is a memory (and taste) I’ll treasure forever. 

I’m so excited to share the recipe – which is written in my grandpa’s handwriting and was part of a book my family put together for me for my wedding.

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Soda Bread 1

Soda Bread 2

We had the fam over to my mom’s for corned beef and cabbage (which I cooked using this recipe), lots of dessert and all-you-can-eat soda bread (of course). I got to meet my cousin’s new baby, Caitlin, and my childhood friend’s new baby, Hazel, too! The tiny babies made Emmett seem like a giganotosaurus. I can’t believe his 9-month checkup is tomorrow.

 

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Weekend recap

Finally: A long weekend that actually felt like a long weekend! And not a moment too soon, as I’ll be going back to working Fridays with my new gig. My mom and aunt flew in from Chicago on Friday afternoon and left Sunday evening, so we had lots of time to both be productive and relax and try to make Emmett giggle.

We went straight to the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden from the airport and had lunch at Trellis, the new cafe by the talented Lisa LaValle.

20140228_134313Our plates were a bright contrast to the snowscape out the window, and the chance to walk around in 50% humidity and 80 degree temps was just what I needed headed into more freezing weather.

Friday night, I ditched the fam for my ladies’ book club. Seriously such a great group of women. I think we met for more than four hours, and discussed the book for maybe 20 percent of the time. Our next read is The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. I enjoyed The Namesake, so I’m looking forward to this.

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Saturday, we ran a few errands, which included popping into Stitch to get a few more fabrics for a quilting project my mom and I are collaborating on. I joked on Instagram that we were having a mother-daughter stripping session this weekend. (Gross, sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

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We love to get Jethro’s carryout when they visit because two of the “Dinner for Two” selections is enough for four adults to eat a hearty dinner with enough leftovers for lunch the next day. Emmett definitely approved. He wasn’t into meat before this, but loved himself some smoked, pulled chicken.

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(I gave him plain corn, but if you’ve never had Jethro’s jalapeño creamed corn it is ridiculously good.) Thankfully the meat didn’t shock his little tastebuds too much and he still ate his typical sweet potato dinner the next night.

While the ladies crafted and the baby slept, Joe worked on our beadboard banister project, which we’re hoping to complete before E figures how to crawl forward. He’s been scooting backwards and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. He also started to take some steps when we were “walking” holding his hands. Eeek. We have a long way to go before our house is baby-proof.

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Sunday afternoon we made a batch of pretzels – our second in as many weeks. Joe and I made them for a Downton Abbey “picnic dinner” last Sunday from Alton Brown’s recipe. They turned out awesome:

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Joe made the dough, which is the hard part, but I got into the dunking-in-boiling-water bit. We ate them with queso because we’re real fond of “light” dining options. 

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Filed under At home, Books, Cooking, Des Moines Dining, Getting crafty

Parenting analogy of the weekend

Parenting analogy of the weekend: Starting out as a parent is kind of like making chili for the first time. Everyone wants to share “the best” recipe with you, but you just kind of have to throw what you have together (resources/philosophy/meat/beans), let it simmer and adjust to your own taste.

I mean, not that your white bean lamb chili isn’t uh-maz-ing, but I’ll just have it when I come over to your house. OK?

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Joe likes to riff on the America’s Test Kitchen recipe. Normally we have it with chicken, but this weekend it was stew meat. Simple. Spicy.

Parenting links that will make Santa spit milk out of his nose: 

If you haven’t yet read this hilarious A Ten-Month-Old’s Letter To Santa post, I almost peed.

My friend Erin wrote this witty little Elf on a Shelf essay for The Register. She’s good. Check out her blog Parent Hard, too.

Oh, Drew Magary. Dadspin brings us “A Treasury of Childrens’ Insane Christmas Lists.” Prompted by this annotated version of his own daughters’.

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Soup’s on Saturdays

Somewhere around the three-and-a-half month mark, my semi-manic I CAN DO ALL THE SAME THINGS WITH A BABY streak screeched to a halt. I’ve been feeling like if I hang back too much, or give up too many of the things I love, I’ll lose myself in this motherhood role and opportunities that were once mine for the taking would get handed on to someone else.

I had a good little snotcry and acknowledged I was taking on too much, too soon. As long as I manage my expectations for Fridays home with Emmett (recognizing we might only check off one chore or just read books and play on the floor all day), I think I’ll find a better balance.

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Thankfully, the past two Saturdays have involved simple plans with friends and soup and a chance to relax.

My college besties Christa and Amanda drove in from Chicago and St. Louis last weekend. Their visit mostly consisted of taking the stroller down to the Shops at Roosevelt for lunch and a baguette at La Mie, to pick up a cheese at The Cheese Shop to melt into homemade potato-bacon soup, and to try on consignment clothes at Worn. Cooking and laughing together and streaming episodes of The Mindy Project was just what I needed.

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Then today we finally made it out to Pella, the Dutch town 45 minutes from Des Moines where my friends Amy and Josh moved this summer. They live just off the quaint town square and had warm vegetable soup and cornbread waiting for us. It was great to catch up with them and see their little one, Linden.

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Pella was puddle-wonderful and charming, even in the drizzle. We stopped by Jaarsma Bakery for a Dutch letter and took a quick little tour of downtown (windmills galore!) before heading over to Lake Red Rock for a short walk on the trail. It felt good to breathe deeply the musky fall smell of damp leaves and earth.

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Just Peachy: Hood River Fruit Picking

Orchards line the highway in the Hood River area. It’s fascinating to see thousands of containers lined up in the grass, ready to transport the fruit commercially, but there’s also a 35-mile “Fruit Loop” dotted with U-Pick farms.

Fruit LoopMap via hoodriverfruitloop.com

Peaches were in season, and we picked 13 pounds of them at Draper Girls Country Farm.

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The peach trees provided plenty of shade, and it was fun to reach out and grab the golden, fuzzy delicious fruit in reach.

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Who can resist these sweet peach cheeks? Peach cheeks

Picking so many peaches the day before we planned to fly home was a bit silly, but they baked down into a delicious peach cobbler we had the whole family over to sample.

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The farm even had a little goat pen, so I got my baby animal fix.

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They also had a big swing that framed Mt. Hood – a fun family photo op. Emmett will be so smiley and expressive and then the minute we try a posed picture, he goes into cranky crunch.

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We stopped at a lavender farm not far down the road on the way back to town. It. Smelled. Amazing. The aroma of lavender was almost hypnotic, like some place in a storybook that lures little girls to sleep for a thousand years.

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They had u-pick bunches for $5, but I didn’t think I had enough room to pack and bring it home. They also have a little gift shop with plenty of other items made from their acres of lavender, too.

If you’re staying in Hood River, see what’s in season! I can’t believe it’s almost time for apple-picking here in Iowa. We love going to Center Grove Orchard. I’ve never been to The Berry Patch, but would love to visit next summer.

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State Fair Food at Home: Italian Sausage Grinders

I should probably divide my life into two eras: Life before I’d experienced the Iowa State Fair and Life After the Fair. I’m exaggerating, but as a transplant to this great state I’ve definitely come to love the Fair – especially its kitschier, more down-home elements, like the miniature animals, food competitions, butter sculptures and beard-growing contest.

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I got to run around the fair a lot in my time as a reporter for Juice, and after interviewing fair-crazed Des Moinesians (I called them “fairwolves” in an article), I got the inside scoop on the best things to experience. One of those readers tipped me off to the goodness that is the State Fair Grinder, and I coerced Joe into coming up with a way to re-create them at home. I especially love cooking these in the depths of winter, but we made them this weekend as the Fair approaches to count down.

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A grinder is essentially a loose-meat Italian sausage sandwich, with red sauce, onions and green peppers served topped with melted cheese on a hoagie bun. Here’s how to make our version at home. Note that if you live in Des Moines, there’s no substitution for Graziano Brothers Italian Sausage. It’s the best.

GrinderIngredients

First, brown your Italian sausage. (If you’re wondering, yes, that is the tail end of a ceramic manatee spoonrest on our range.) Preheat the oven at 375 degrees.

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Then, chop up your onion and green pepper into bite-size chunks. Add the onion, chop the pepper and then combine and cook.

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Then add in your red pasta sauce and stir it all together. You can also chop up and add some garlic to taste, if you like.

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While the filling is simmering, hollow out the hoagie bun a little bit. This will help prevent it from breaking on the bottom, spilling your sandwich’s guts. We had enough for four grinders, but reserved half the filling for seconds the next day.

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Line a pan with foil and fill the hoagies with the sausage mixture.

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Top with sliced provolone cheese, then pop in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes – enough to brown the cheese.

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I wouldn’t recommend putting this sandwich on a stick. Keep a nice stack of napkins and handy and pour yourself something refreshing to drink. It’s hot and spicy.

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Now there’s a little taste of the State Fair in your kitchen! What’s your favorite element of the Iowa State Fair, or the fair where you live?

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