Food From Home

Cooking at home for fun, health and frugality!

St. Patrick’s Day Non-Authentic Irish Traditions & Pistachio Pudding Cookies

I have a mixed European ancestry. My ancestors from Ireland arrived in the United States a long ass time ago. My  Irish American immigrant ancestor had a child born in 1758 in Virginia.  On St. Patrick’s Day my family so long removed from Ireland  always ate corned beef, potatoes and cabbage. We usually had some green gelatin dessert.
I’ve read two articles today about how  St. Patrick’s Day  food traditions in the US changed from traditions in Ireland. It is interesting to find out about why we do these things. Corned beef is delicious so I don’t really need a historical reason or a holiday to eat it. I’m sure whatever people are eating today in Ireland is awesome too.
Today I absolutely have my corned beef in the slow cooker and I am going to make pistachio pudding cookies for our dessert. The pistachio pudding adds a little green. The cookie is not Irish or a particular holiday tradition but has a tasty memory attached.

When I was young my parents would take us all to visit my aunt, uncle and cousin… really we would descend on their peaceful home in a noisy herd. We would read my cousin’s comic books and play on his tire swing. We didn’t have these things at home. My aunt would often bake soft, buttery vanilla pudding cookies on these occasions for us. My mom never made these kind of cookies. I have great memories of the treat of these cookies all warm from the oven. My aunt sadly died of cancer when I was a sophomore in high school but years later when we made a family cookbook we all agreed to the inclusion of Aunt Bev’s pudding cookie recipe. I’m sure she got it from a newspaper, magazine or pudding box but it was still HER recipe. It is a favorite cookie of my daughter now too. You can use any instant pudding flavor you like and add things like chocolate chips. It is fun to experiment with different flavors.


Pistachio Pudding Cookies
2 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 c butter, softened
3/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c white sugar
3.4 oz box pistachio instant pudding
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350° F. Mix flour and baking soda in one bowl. In separate bowl, beat butter, sugars and instant pudding until combined. Mix in vanilla and eggs. Add flour mixture gradually and mix until combined. Drop by the spoonful onto baking sheet 2″ apart. Bake 8 -10 minutes. Let cool 1 minute on the baking sheet. These cookies stay soft. Store in a tightly sealed container. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

These turned out to have a very pale greenish cast and subtle flavor. I added a bit of green tea powder to the last batch and it made the cookie a little darker and stronger flavor than just pistachio alone.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

From my home to yours,

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Beef Stir Fry & History

I grew up in Council Bluffs, IA (population 62,000ish) right across the Missouri River from Omaha, Ne (population almost 430,000). For Iowa and Nebraska these are  the 7th largest and the 1st largest cities in their respective states. The reason why these cities are bigger is location and history.  Council Bluffs and Omaha are on the river so goods and people could be transported from other places along the Missouri river by barges and steamboats. The Lewis and Clark expedition went through and met with tribes in the area- the reason why it is named Council Bluffs. This area was the originating point of the Mormon trail. The eastern terminus of transcontinental railroad was in Council Bluffs  and Omaha became the location of the Union Pacific Railroad headquarters. Council Bluffs was a center for grain storage and had massive grain storage elevators. When I was in elementary school there was an explosion at one of the elevators. I think I was at school at the time and the school shook and we could see the smoke from there.  There was a huge stockyard in Omaha and was in the 1950’s the largest livestock market and meat packing center in the country. People came here. Things happened here. End of history lesson.
So, I guess my point is that the central United States is not all scattered farms and living in the Council Bluffs and Omaha area we had stores and restaurants aplenty. My family just didn’t eat out often but when we went out to eat it was burgers, pizza, or steak. I had never eaten food from a Chinese restaurant until I went to college in a small Nebraska town even though there were certainly Chinese restaurants where I grew up. Crab rangoon and egg rolls eaten while sitting on my dorm room floor with friends was kind of a revelation. What was with sitting on the floor to eat at that age? I remember eating nachos and pizza sitting on the floor too. There was furniture. It may have just been more delicious that way.
Okay. Coming back to Chinese food. I know U.S. Chinese food is different from food in China. A fascinating documentary about Chinese immigration and restaurants is The Search for General Tso. It explains why even a small town of 1,500 people in Kansas has a Chinese restaurant and is serving up the same dishes as in restaurants in every other US city.
My mom- of British heritage married to man of German heritage- often made a “stir fry” at home with ground beef and cabbage that is very similar to what I’m making today. It is kind of fake Chinese food. It is economical though which is probably what she was aiming for with having to feed a family of five. My mom died several years ago and I hadn’t eaten this in maybe 20 years but last year I was thinking about it and went looking for a recipe.
The closest one I found was . My mom’s stir fry definitely did not have mushrooms or ginger but I like those additions. I use some sesame oil, minced garlic, pepper and more soy sauce. My version is not as allergy friendly so if you have allergies you might want to use the version I linked to.
If you have extra fresh cabbage you can actually freeze it and use it in recipes like stir fry, soup, or homemade Runzas. I know because Hagbard purchased a couple of huge cabbages a couple of months ago when I only needed one small one so I shredded it in my food processor and froze the extra in plastic baggies. I’m using up the last bag of that cabbage today. Yay for gaining more freezer room! I have thawed the cabbage a bit in my refrigerator so it isn’t one hard chunk.
I don’t have any mushrooms today which I will miss a bit because I love mushrooms. It is fine without them though.
This is a faster recipe to prepare especially if you use pre-cut or shredded vegetables. If you can cut vegetables and brown meat you can make this.
You can have it with or without rice.

Ground Beef Stir Fry
1 tsp sesame oil
1 T peanut oil
1  lb ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 lb thinly sliced mushrooms
1/2 c shredded carrot
1-2 c shredded cabbage
1/4 c soy sauce
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger

Brown ground beef in a big skillet with sesame oil. Remove from pan and set aside. Add 1 T peanut oil to pan . Add carrots and onion and cook over medium high heat until onions are translucent. Add mushrooms and cook until browned. Add cabbage and cook until until it wilts a bit- 2-3 minutes. Mix together soy sauce, garlic, pepper and ginger. Add beef and soy sauce mixture to cabbage mixture and cook a few more minutes. Add a tablespoon or so of water if it looks dry.

One last piece of trivia: Council Bluffs is part of the Loess Hills geological formation. The only comparable depth of deposits of loess soil like this is in China.  I played in this dirt as a child. It is a yellowish color and the eroded soil feels fine and soft like flour.

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Memories: Home Economics

I was thinking about what I want to do with this blog. I don’t really want to just post recipes and nothing personal. Lately I’ve started listening to podcasts while working in the kitchen and one that is really interesting to me is The JV Club with Janet Varney. On the podcast Janet talks with a female guest usually about their teen-early adult years. It has really made me think about my teenage experiences, my teenage daughter’s experiences and life in general.  Check it out.

Inspired by that podcast, I’d like to post about some of my memories occasionally. I was a quiet, introverted, shy, artsy, nerdy girl growing up. Art, reading and cooking were my big interests. I also liked roller skating. I was convinced I’d have rocket powered roller skates as an adult instead of cars. As an adult I concede that cars are more practical and probably safer.

If you read the About Me section you know that although I was interested in cooking from a young age and the results were not always very good. I don’t think my mom appreciated me making a mess in the kitchen. I recall her saying more than once that I could help best by leaving her alone while she cooked. She also wanted me to do silly things sometimes like put my book down and go play outside. I think she was most comfortable with me in the kitchen as I became a teenager… or she just gave up!

Home economics was still a thing taught at schools when I was growing up. I don’t think it is now. I was in junior high in 1986-1988. My  junior high school offered a home economics class. Most girls and a few boys took it. For one section of the class you learned to sew and the other section was cooking. In 7th grade the sewing project for everyone was an apron. In 8th grade you had to choose a clothing pattern. I chose a skirt and learned to hate sewing a zipper in and the seam ripper. The sewing teacher told us stories about someone getting their hand caught in a machine. I still think of that and shudder every time I sew. I don’t remember anything we cooked in the cooking section. I remember being lectured on stuff like food safety and cleaning but not actually cooking. Maybe we made toast.

In high school (1988-1992) the home economics classes were divided up. You could take Foods, Sewing, and Personal Development I believe. Personal Development was a class where kids got to carry around a bag of flour or an egg for a pretend baby. I didn’t take that or sewing. I took Foods every year. In my freshman year the first thing we were going to cook was a pudding pie. I was really anxious as I had only made instant pudding. I begged my mom to practice making a cooked pudding at home before the class. Class day came and I was feeling more confident.  The pudding pie turned out to be instant pudding in a graham cracker crust. I felt kind of dumb and let down. We did eventually cook actual foods using an actual stove. Time limits were something of a problem. We learned to read through our recipe before cooking. We had to copy the recipe out onto an index card. We had to make a shopping list for every recipe. We learned to put dishes in a sink full of soapy water and clean up as we cooked.

The Foods class was a bit like a club. A lot of people took it year after year. We interacted more than other classes so it was fun. One time we had kind of an open house for other students and teachers to come sample snacks we had made. My partner and I made cheese straws for that.

I think it was my junior year that one of the boys in my class killed himself. He had been drunk and was playing around with a gun and shot himself. It was the first time a kid I knew died. Many kids were drinking and stuff and it didn’t seem like a big deal. He had always been a really lively, jokester person in the class. It was very shocking… maybe that is why I still don’t like drinking, drugs or guns. The school counselor came and talked to our class and I remember people crying and just feeling kind of sick and hollow.

Well, that got serious and sad.

My mom was working at a store when I was in high school and my dad worked 2 jobs. My older brother and sister had jobs. I started cooking dinners for the five of us. I would read cookbooks but mostly made what my mom told me to make- meat, potato, canned vegetable. It was not a meal without a potato! I think timing, anxiety, and perfectionism were problems for me to overcome in the kitchen. I don’t know if home economic classes made me a better cook than I would have been without them but definitely left me with some ideas and habits that I carry with me still.



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