Tag Archives: recipes

At home with the Heggens

Last week, my friends Danny and Katy and I finally made good on a volley of “LET’S MAKE RICOTTA” text messages. What? You don’t text your friends about cheese?

I had cheesemaking on my 30-before-30 list, a my friend even got me a sweet kit, but Emmett and I always seem to drink all of the milk in the house before I can manage any attempt to morph it into cheese. Danny is on a make-things-and-document-it kick, and I knew he’d DIY-d ricotta before, so I talked him into inviting me over to whip up a batch, especially since we don’t see each other at YNPN Des Moines board meetings any more. (Tear.)

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We donned aprons and made this creamy Smitten Kitchen ricotta because pretty much every post on Smitten Kitchen is a mouthwatering gem and they could attest to its taste and ease. Making the ricotta was insanely simple. The Heggens have way nicer kitchen utensils and even bought a bottle of silly alcohol-free red wine for me. The ricotta takes just a few minutes on the stove, and then we had to let it drain/firm up, so could hang out on the back porch and chow chips and drink “wine” and talk about the situational leadership model I learned about at a retreat. Because we’re geeks.

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We went a step further and turned half the ricotta into spinach-and-ricotta dumplings, sauteed in marinara sauce. They were pretty delish. I can’t find the Cooking Light recipe online (it’s in the current issue), but this is pretty similar.

Joe and Emmett came over for dinner after the cooking sesh/Emmett’s nap, and Danny even let Emmett try out his ukulele.

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I’m pretty terrible at making time to hang out with my friends. But I’m a champ at eating Sunday dinner. So, we should probably make and eat Sunday dinner with friends a lot more often.

 

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NPR in everyday life

Iowa Public Radio is the first preset in my car (don’t worry, I’m a sustaining member!) and so shows like All Things Considered and segments like StoryCorps are part of my everyday life.

I went a step further this week: In pursuit of headway on my 30 before 30 list (less than a month to go! totally not going to cross off the majority!), I convinced my dear friend Arin to stay up late after our kiddos had gone to bed and bake a multi-layer cake. I’m not a confident baker, but I do love All Cakes Considered, by NPR producer Melissa Gray. We set out to make Aunt Di’s Bittersweet Chocolate Frosted Layer Cake.

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Once upon a time, in the beginning of my Des Moines life, Arin and Karen (co-owner of the stationery store Ephemera) were the cake queens. They used to bake a weekly cake from scratch and a big group of us used to come over to eat it. Those are some of my favorite memories.

So Monday night, I poured some fake, pregnant lady wine and unpacked armloads of supplies in Arin’s kitchen.  Her children slept through the sounds of our giggling and the amazing aroma. It was lovely. The cake, well, let’s just say it wasn’t going to win any beauty contests. (We frosted it while it was still hot.) But with two cups of freshly whipped cream (a delightful chore on a mint KitchenAid Mixer) in the batter and the frosting calling for enough confectioner’s sugar to swim in, it tasted delish. My coworkers graciously overlooked its ugliness and helped devour it at our Tuesday staff meeting.

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Nailed it. Maybe I should set my sights on the Iowa State Fair ugliest cake contest. I really can’t take myself too seriously.

And over the weekend, when I was home for a wedding, I downloaded the StoryCorps app to my phone.

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I love doing videos and interviews with my grandpa (he just turned 93 last week!) and this is a really great format. We talked about his mom, or at least tried to, in honor of Mother’s Day. The app gives you question prompts and it’s easy to upload the finished interview. Plus, any reason to get these two hangout time:

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We have a family reunion in June and I hope to record a longer StoryCorps about his experience in the Navy during WWII. It takes him a bit to get warmed up, but once he gets going, the stories start to flow. I think it would be fun for us to interview aunts and uncles, too! We don’t get together as much as I would like.

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Liking lately

I’m in denial about this whole summer-being-over thing, although once I unpack my sweaters, I’m sure I’ll change my tune.

Here are a few things I’ve been into:

To eat: A few friends hosted “Meatfest” last weekend, a backyard barbecue with insanely good smoked meats and a smorgasbord of sides. Great weather, better people. I asked Joe to make this roasted potato salad with shaved fennel and salsa verde, a killer potluck-pleasing dish he’s mastered. It’s for real.

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To read: I felt compelled to go to the library the other night, and made it to the Forest Avenue branch just before it closed for the evening. I’d never been there before, and the selection isn’t huge (they seem to cater to the ESL population that lives in the area), but this Sticks banner between two big tree sculptures made me smile.

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I picked up “The String Diaries” and raced through it this week. I can’t rave about the prose itself, but it’s a fast-paced thriller that reminded me of Gone Girl in ways. It has elements of the magical, but it uses one of my favorite techniques of bouncing around time periods and intertwining plots.

To make: Truth – I basically showed Joe this project and he made it for me. I have a huge empty wall in my office that’s been aching for artwork these past six months, and when I saw this, I felt like it would be a cool installation piece. Just a big frame, chicken wire, staples, spray paint, spacers and paper strips.

{photo via Sugar & Cloth}

{photo via Sugar & Cloth}

The project is by Sugar & Cloth, but I first saw it linked from Going Home to Roost. I have yet to get the paper and cut strips for it, but I might treat it like a gratitude journal, curling up messages of thanks as a daily meditation. I’ll probably post something to Instagram once it’s up in my office.

 To conquer: Emmett and I ran out first 5K together last week. DMU did a Friday evening run from campus, down around the sculpture park and back. We definitely didn’t PR or anything, but it was my goal to at least jog the whole thing, and I followed through. The kid didn’t even break a sweat.

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Nicole and Everett also ran, and Mollie and her daughter, Kaydin. I’m really starting to feel like part of the DMU community. It’s crazy to believe next week marks six months in my role there.

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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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Super fancy summer drink

OK, totally not fancy at all, but a refreshing staple on muggy summer nights:

Ice in a glass + carlo_rossi_sangria_1
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You can try the ratio that works for you, but I typically do half-glass Sangria, 1/3 glass juice and spritz of Fresca. Super fancy cocktail hour.

Favorite spots in Des Moines for Sangria: Stam Ingersoll secret garden, El Patio, Dos Rios.

I haven’t been to Malo yet, but I’m sure it would be on the list.

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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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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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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.

Draper Farm

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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