Recipes from Nebraska

Tasty Tuesday: The Versatile Wreath that Lasts Beyond December

Surprisingly ,  these days you will almost always find crescent rolls in my refrigerator.  This ingredient is essential to my new go-to recipe: the savory ring/wreath.  I have eaten these before – Pampered Chef parties used to feature them often.  (You can find a few variations on  Once I realized that this was a quick dinner and was a great way to use up leftover meat and vegetables, I have made this often.  Another good reason: they are always a hit around here!

First, you unroll two packages of crescent rolls.  Overlapping them around a pizza pan or baking stone, you will create the beginnings of a wreath shape. (The wider ends of the triangle overlap as a circle in the middle.)

Wreath 1

Press the edges together.  Then add your filling.  You will need 3-4 cups of filling.  This time I used leftover sausage, roasted red peppers and alfredo sauce.

Wreath 2

This was almost too much filling as some did spill over the edges.  (A good excuse to clean my oven!)  Then you fold the narrow part of the triangle to the center, tucking it under.

Wreath 3

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.  Basically you are browning the rolls and heating the filling.  You always want to use cooked meat – raw would not cook up well at all, plus would not be good with the dough.

Wreath 4

Suggested combinations: ham & broccoli; pepperoni with pizza sauce; taco meat/cheese (a variation known as the Taco Ring in Pampered Chef circles).  Options are almost endless!  This is a wreath you can enjoy year round.  A great idea for ringing in the new year if your plans involve staying home as opposed to going out!

Categories: Cornhusker Cuisine, Recipes from Nebraska | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tasty Tuesday: Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Chip Cookies

I think that cookie dough might be my kryptonite.  In fact I have been known to make a small batch that never makes it into actual cookies.  Besides me, in my family growing up, the guys were the ones mostly likely to make cookies.  (One disclaimer: my Mom has always been a great cook, and my sister learned how to make pies like my Grandma.  Delicious!)  But Dad and brother often made the cookies – I think because they also liked the dough!

Pumpkin Cookies 2

One other family tradition was to leave a spoon of dough on the counter for the ones who were not around when they made cookies.  Since I knew I was going to be seeing my Dad, I continued the tradition.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies dough

The recipe that I use is pretty basic.  I have determined one thing – while butter makes the best dough, using shortening seems to make the best cookie.  But two ingredients that made this batch of cookies unique: pumpkin spice pudding and cinnamon chips.  (I decided that pumpkin spice pudding was not quite pumpkin enough to be a part of yesterday’s pumpkin post! 🙂  )

Pumpkin Cookies 6

Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Chip Cookies
1 pkg pudding mix (I used pumpkin spice)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2¼ cups flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
6 oz chips (I used cinnamon chips)
1 In a large bowl, cream together the pudding mix and sugar with the shortening. Add the vanilla and eggs. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients (or at the least, mix in the soda and salt with some of the flour before adding). Gradually add the dry ingredients to the other ingredients. Mix well.
2 Using a cookie scoop, measure out 12 cookies per sheet. Bake at 350° for 9-11 minutes. (The cookies may be soft at first, but they firm up. I think they taste better if you remove them slightly early from baking).
 Cooking Tips
You could substitute another flavor of pudding mix or type of chips. If using white chocolate pudding mix/vanilla chips, I would use 1 cup of white sugar, instead of 1 cup of brown sugar.
 Recipe Source
Author: based on Toll House cookie original recipeSource: Odyssey through Nebraska

Pumpkin Spice Cookies dough 2

Using a Kitchen Aide mixer definitely makes cookie making a breeze!

Pumpkin Spice Cookies scoop

This cookie scoop even went with me to college.  I love how uniform cookies always result. 

Pumpkin Spice baked cookies

Even though the cookies look slightly doughy, they continue to taste delicious for days if they are not overbaked.  (That is if they last that long!)

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

We ended up with quite a few cookies.  (And yes, I did eat some of the dough.  So did my kids – I trained them well!)

If you have allergies in your family …

To make these cookies gluten free:

Most pudding mixes are actually gluten free – certain flavors may vary, so you need to consult the packaging.  You can try to simply substitute a gluten free flour blend (that contains xantham gum).  You may need to play with the amounts of the dry ingredients, so that the dough is the right consistency.  Sometime I plan to try to do just this.  My brother-in-law cannot have wheat, so I have gotten better at cooking gluten free.

As far as adopting this particular recipe to dairy free or milk free – the pudding mix would make that harder.  But, recently I needed to make this type of cookie for my homeschool co-op preschool class.  I made them airy free by using 1/4 c. shortening and 1/4 c. Blue Bonnet light margarine (dairy free, although not soy free).  I did not add the chocolate chips until the end, and kept a few cookies without any chips.  Then I added a few mini chocolate chips to those cookies.  The little ones needed just a touch of chocolate to not notice the different.  For older ones, I would just make the cookies without the chips or buy a special dairy free chips that is available at certain stores.

Egg Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap.
-Barbara Jordan-
Categories: Cornhusker Cuisine, Recipes from Nebraska | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taste the Season: Pumpkin in Nebraska

Of all of the seasons, fall has always been my favorite.  Possibly that has to do with lots of family birthday celebrations.  But I think that pumpkin also plays a big part.  Love pumpkins!  Various sizes and shapes fill our house.  Bath & Bodyworks Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin soap and lotions are used almost daily.  Pumpkin also happens to be one of my favorite foods.

A few weeks ago I went to Trader Joe’s.  When this store arrived in Lincoln, I  could not figure out what the big deal was about a grocery store.  Then I visited there and discovered lots of fun foods.  For the sake of our grocery budget, it is probably a good thing that the store is clear across town.  But when I make it that direction, Trader Joe’s is almost always one of my stops.

When I went there in late October, they were featuring pumpkin.  I had to restrain myself.  I already have Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte tea mix.  I enjoyed discovering some new products.  For some people, pumpkin season ends with Halloween, but in our house, this versatile fruity vegetable (yes, it is often classified as both!) lasts all fall.


The pumpkin ravioli was delicious and only needed a bit of butter and garlic salt.  Since I can tired of fruit bar flavors, adding pumpkin to the mix is really fun.  And really good.  And their Halloween Joe Joe’s (their version of Oreos) are the best ever.  Maybe it is the Vanilla Bean cream filling?  Probably mean of me to post that picture since those are no longer available.  But their peppermint Joe Joe’s will be arriving soon – crushed candy canes in their Vanilla Bean filling – sign me up.

I know that for some of you a Trader Joe’s is not nearby.  At least pumpkin can be purchased at any grocery store.  Occasionally I have taken the time to actually bake my own pumpkin and then enjoy roasting the seeds.  Most of the time, I just go with canned pumpkin.  A busy mom has her limits.


I have a few favorite recipes that I like to make every fall that feature pumpkin as the star ingredient.  Maybe some of these will become your favorites as well.

Cheese Ravioli with Pumpkin Sauce This recipe from the Meal Makeover Moms is a favorite of mine and my oldest.  My other children might like it by now – for the longest time, I would just serve them sandwiches.  (I think pickyness is not the issue – Mom just needs to work on sharing.)  We use half of the sauce for one large bag of cheese ravioli, then freeze the rest for next time.   I do believe we will be dining on this for lunch today!

One of my favorite pumpkin recipes is “Autumn Chicken Carnivale” from the 46th National Chicken Cooking Contest.  I was hoping to post a link to that recipe online, but I could not find it anywhere.  I did find 100 pumpkin & chicken recipes on Yummly.  Maybe I will have to add new recipes to my repertoire.

For today I will close with one last favorite pumpkin recipe.  I am not sure where my Mom first got this recipe, so I am not sure who to credit,  But this has been a family favorite for years.  I like this better than pumpkin pie.  And if you happen to be coming to my house for Bible study tonight, you will get to sample it for this is dessert today at our house!

Pumpkin Pie Cake
1 29-oz. 29- oz can pumpkin
4 eggs
1 13-oz can evaporated milk
1 ½ cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
1 yellow cake mix
1 cup melted butter
Beat all ingredients together except cake mix & butter, then pour into an ungreased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix over the pumpkin mixture. Pour melted butter over cake mix. Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes. Can top with cool whip.


Categories: Cornhusker Cuisine, Recipes from Nebraska | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tasty Tuesday: Zio’s Pizza in Omaha AND Grilling Pizza @ Home

Perhaps mentioning the word queasy in a restaurant review, particularly a place that is one of your favorites, is in poor taste.  But perhaps when I mention that it was a feeling that I had for 9 months, it would make more sense.  Yep- pregnancy did not always agree with me as my “morning” sickness lasted pretty much all day all trimesters.  (Amazing that we had 4 children, huh?)   Figuring out what to eat was always a challenge.  I was really into white foods – so, I am a bit odd! 🙂

During my baby years, for several springs I would spend a few days in Omaha as a part of the Nebraska statewide writing assessments.  I loved the whole experience – I enjoy editing.   And I liked the fact that they fed us – I had a break on that challenging decision of what to eat for a few days.  Except for supper when I was on my own.  Enter Zio’s Pizza.

Zio's sign

I could handle eating their alfredo calzones with ricotta cheese.  No meat – just cheese.  That tasted good.  In fact, I could have eaten them every day.  Probably a good thing that I was only in Omaha for a few days and that they wouldn’t deliver to Lincoln without an astronomical fee.

This is probably my favorite place to eat in Omaha (apart from Chick-fil-a where we also seem to go).  I have tried several things on the menu there now (at least on the times when I was expecting) and have never been disappointed.  In fact, my husband and I wrote a comment card trying to convince them to expand in Lincoln.  So far, they haven’t taken that bite yet.  Maybe someday.  I do not that I do not appreciate the fact that they play their commercials on the Omaha tv stations that we sometimes watch.  Late at night, of course, when the kids are sleeping, and we can’t make an impromptu trip up to Omaha for pizza.

Zio's neon sign

Supposedly, Zio’s is a New York Style pizzeria.  Having never eaten pizza pie in the Big Apple, I can neither confirm or deny.  I just know that it is yummy!  So, if you have never experienced their deliciousness, stop by the next time when you are in the Big O!

Although I cannot have Zio’s as often as I would like, there obviously several good pizza places in Lincoln (although it is not quite the same).  One of my favorite places to have pizza actually happens to be on our deck.  A long time ago, when we lived in Hickman, the local small town newspaper (The Voice) had an article by Weber Grills about grilled pizza.  We decided that it was worth trying, and we have now made it numerous times.  A family hit!

So, even if you are not close enough to Zio’s, you can still have great pizza at home.  Tonight!  Without even having to heat up your oven.

Here is the official Weber “Homemade Pizza on the Grill” video that includes comments and tips at the bottom.

And in case you are a visual person, here is a YouTube video of someone else making pizza.

Because I feel like we have learned a few tips (especially my husband who tends to be our “Griller Extraordinaire”), here is the recipe that we have adapted from Weber.  Ciao!

Grilled Pizza Dough
1 Place 1 ½ c. lukewarm water in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle 1 package yeast on top and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Combine 4 c. flour and ¼ t. salt. Add to water, 1 cup at a time. Knead in the Kitchenaid mixer for 3-5 minutes until incorporated. Add 2 T. olive oil – mix again. Once dough is smooth, clean and oil the bowl. Place dough inside, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap until more than double (for about an hour). (I preheat the oven to 170, add the dough, and then turn the oven off for better rising).  Punch dough down – knead on a lightly floured surface. Then divide the dough into 8 sections – roll out into pizzas.
2 Grill on medium high for 3-5 minutes. Then, turn over and add toppings – grill another 3-5 minutes. Enjoy!
 Cooking Tips
We have learned that taking the pizzas off the grill to add the toppings tends to work better.
You can also make one large pizza instead of individual ones, but that can be more challenging. You can also cook on a stone, but we usually just cook directly on the grates.
 Recipe Source
Author: Weber Grills

Note: this recipe works well as it is dairy and egg free.  Would also be fairly easy to make gluten free pizza substituting gluten free flour blend for the regular.  Or you can also used pre-purchased dough.  We have also heated up frozen pizzas on the grill on really hot days – works great if you use more indirect heat.


Categories: Cornhusker Cuisine, Eating Establishments, Recipes from Nebraska | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Kolaches: Nebraskans Eating Czech

Growing up, many of my family’s celebrations included traditional Swedish foods.  So, until I met my husband, I had never tried kolaches, a traditional Czech pastry.  These sweet rolls often have fruit filling, such as cherry, apricot or prune, although in the south cheese & sausage ones seem to be common.  My personal favorite ones are the poppy seed kind.

For years, I have wanted to learn from my mother-in-law how to make these delights, but we have not managed to find the time (or it has been to hot to heat up the kitchen!)  So, when my favorite recipe catalog, Penzey’s, arrived with a refrigerator kolache recipe arrived, I was excited to try them and ordered a large bag of poppy seeds.  Two years later, they were sitting untouched in my cupboard.

Until I realized that before posting about kolaches and giving out a recipe, I should actually try making them.  So this blog motivated me to introduce kolaches to my kitchen.  And now that these treats have been there, they will return, as I was amazed at how easy they were to make.  But I am definitely glad that I did try them first, as I will be making a few changes to the recipe.  So, at the end of this post, I will provide a link to the original recipe as well as to my adapted one.  As I show you pictures of my baking, I will note what I changed about the recipe. 🙂

First: I tried to streamline the timing, so that the baking event would not take quite as long.  I would cut in the butter/shortening to the flour mixture first and set that aside, so that it was ready when I needed it.


Then I would start cooking down the poppy seeds on the stove.  The original recipe states that you do not have to grind the poppy seeds since you refrigerate the filling overnight.  That seemed to work okay AS long as I added extra sugar – the filling was not sweet enough for me in the first batch I made.  I also will add a bit of cornstarch next time to the milk before stirring it in.  I want the consistency to be more like pie filling (hopefully that would also make the filling less messy!)


Poppy seed soup?

The poppy seed mixture does cook down well, but the original recipe seemed to make more filling than was needed, so I cut down on the required filling in my adapted recipe.


As soon as I had the filling cooking, I would add the yeast/sugar to the warm water to start the 10 minute activation.  Will be ready to add the remaining ingredients just about the time the poppy seeds are ready to be taken off the stove.  The original recipe says that you should fold the combined dough with a bit more flour on a floured surface – I did not want another dish to wash, so I just sprinkled a little flour on top.


What the combined dough looked like before going into the fridge for the night.  The poppy seed filling hangs out there too overnight.

I really liked the fact that I could be done baking for a bit.  Making bread can be exhausting, so having to put it aside was nice.  I will do a better job of planning when I make these next time- starting with a kitchen full of supper dishes was not a good idea.  I was a bit (okay, possibly a lot!) crabby.  The kids would have enjoyed helping more – at this point, I just wanted them to go to bed for the night!


What the dough looked like after being in the fridge overnight.  I could not really tell much difference from the night before.  But there must have been some raising going on, as the bread part tasted flaky, rather than seeming too dense.

The original recipe makes 48 kolaches.  So, you cut the dough into 4 balls, then divide each ball in half twice, then in thirds.  I did not add any extra flour – rolling the dough into balls was very quick and easy.

While I was rolling the dough into balls, I preheated my oven to 170 degrees.  I decided that cooking more than 2 pans of rolls at a time would crowd the oven, so I put the other half of the dough back into the fridge until later.  Once the 2 pans were full of rolls, I set them into the warm oven, TURNED the oven OFF (a key step 🙂 ), then waited an hour for them to raise in their warm, happy place.  At this point, I would recommend setting out the streusel ingredients, so that the butter can soften.  I microwaved the butter to soften it – it turned out clumpy (but still tasted good!)


The raised rolls flatten out in the oven naturally.  The dough ball pictured below the ready rolls came directly from the refrigerator, so that you could see the size comparisons.

After the rolls have risen, you depress the centers lightly with a spoon and spread with the filling.  Then you top with the filling.  The key is baking them until light brown – they seem like they will not be cooked through, but they are flaky and delicious.  (Golden brown means an overdone kolache.)


Poppy seeds are definitely a bit messy to work with.  They may not look quite uniform, but they still were delicious.  I felt the original recipe did not have enough streusel topping – I like mine to cover the seeds, so I doubled that part.

As I adapted the recipe for our family, I actually cut the recipe in half, so that next time I make them, I will make only 24 (since that was all that could fit in my oven at one time anyway).  Since kolaches really taste best within a day or two of making them, having 4 dozen around is a bit much.  (Although we do have happy neighbors since we shared our extras with them! ) Within 24 hours, all 48 kolaches are gone.  (Sorry to my extended family – I will make them for you next time! 🙂 )


My husband, the longtime kolache connoisseur, decided that this version of dough was the best ever.  We both think that the filling needs a little bit of work as far as holding together better and needing to be a bit sweeter.  I thought that making my own filling would save money – I am not convinced that it did.  Although I think the homemade filling might be “healthier,” since I know exactly what was added.  If I want kolaches and do not have as much time, I might just make my own dough and use canned filling.

The original recipe:  Penzey’s No-Knead Refrigerator Kolaches (p. 53 in the catalog pdf)

My adapted recipe: No-Knead Refrigerator Poppy Seed Kolaches

We shared the kolaches with Kyle (my husband’s aunt & uncle).  She remembers her mom (my husband’s Grandma) making her own poppy seed filling.  She was not sure of the exact measurements, but she recalled her mom boiling the poppy seeds in water to soften them.  Then she used a meat grinder to grind them up, then added cream and sugar.  I am sure that her filling was delicious!

As far as adapting these for food allergies …

You could certainly try dairy free substitutions for the dairy products – it may alter the taste slightly but could be worth a try.  I could not find a kolache recipe that did this.

I did find this recipe for Gluten Free Kolaches (Savory).  I think you could possibly adapt the recipe by adding some sugar.  If I were to make the kolaches gluten free (which is a definite possibility since my sweet brother-in-law cannot have gluten), I would find more of a pastry dough and use that.  The poppy seed filling is already gluten free!)

Can’t have enough kolaches?  While she isn’t from Wilber, the charming Nadine Racek from Morse Bluff “Queen of Kolaches” is enjoyable to watch on Nebraska Story: Kolache Queen  I attempted to contact her to find out more details of where you can purchase kolaches from her. I thought she was making some for this week-end, but alas, that was for Morse Bluff’s 125th year celebration last year. Her phone number could not be found, and while there is a Morse Bluff Facebook Page, they have not posted on there since March.  I am sure that a person could do further digging and find her, but I really did not want to invade her privacy too much anyway! 🙂

Categories: Cornhusker Cuisine, Pioneer Country, Recipes from Nebraska | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dueling Desserts

When I was growing up, I loved going to visit all my relatives on their farms in central Nebraska.  For awhile, both my uncles and grandparents were within a short walk of each other.  When we visited my one aunt and uncle, we would beg for them to put a song on their player piano.  My favorite song was always “Dueling Banjos.”  I can still remember how that music sounded.

When I got married, we moved past the dueling banjos to a different type of duel.  Whose mom made the best kind of homemade ice cream.  Of course, I picked my own mom’s vanilla recipe, while my husband sided with his.  Well, we have grown up a little over the past 13+ years and have finally agreed on a winner.  Whoever currently has some on hand is definitely the best!  So the desserts are no longer dueling – they both win.  So, in honor of both of our moms – here are their ice cream recipes that have been family recipes since our childhood.  (Reprinted with their permission – we love you both!)

Roylene’s Country Vanilla Ice Cream

4 eggs

2 ¼ c. sugar

3 c. milk

6 c. half & half cream

4 ½ t. vanilla

½ t. salt

Add sugar gradually to beaten eggs.  Continue to beat until mixture is very stiff.  Add remaining ingredients & mix thoroughly.  Pour into a gallon freezer and freeze as directed.  Recipe from Proctor-Silex Ice Cream Maker Instruction Booklet

LeAnne’s Homemade Ice Cream

4 eggs

2 ½  c. sugar

About 5 c. Vitamin D milk

One can evaporated milk (not skim or generic)

2 T. vanilla

¼ t. salt

Combine all ingredients together – pour into freezer.  Top off with additional milk.  Freeze as directed.  (She combined several recipes to create her own version!)

Whichever one you try, you will enjoy!

Categories: Recipes from Nebraska | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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