Brenda Pottebaum says her husband Dale loves her cooking.
Brenda Pottebaum says her husband Dale loves her cooking.
Monday, September 12, 2011

For Brenda Pottebaum, of Carroll, recipes are usually just a suggestion.

“I like to mix things up to suit our taste or our pantry,” says Brenda.

She likes to cook and bake but likes the flexibility of cooking. Brenda really likes to play around and experiment in the kitchen and is often tweaking recipes.

Brenda’s husband, Dale, loves his wife’s cooking especially grilled beef roast with homemade horseradish sauce, the first meal she ever made for him, fajitas with homemade salsa, steamed chicken wings, and any of his mother’s recipes.

Dale’s parents are Bob and Rosie Pottebaum of Halbur. Brenda describes her mother-in-law as an amazing cook, and Brenda has several of her recipes, all of which say “Yose (her nickname) authorized” at the top. This means Brenda is not allowed to make any changes to the recipe unless Dale approves.

Brenda is a stay-at-home mom and a representative for Premiere Designs jewelry. She enjoys the creativity of jewelry and likes having something to do outside of the home. Dale, works for Rotert Construction in Halbur.

Brenda and Dale, have five children — Jenny, 23, of Sioux City, Tasha, 21, attends Iowa State University; Kelsey, 18, is a senior at Kuemper Catholic; Dylan, 12, is a seventh-grader at Carroll Middle School; and Ethan, 3, is a preschooler.

As a child, Brenda remembers her parents, Steve and Pat Kult, of Coon Rapids, cooking together. Her family ate supper at the table as a family each night. Brenda was never really taught to cook, but being around her parents, who are both great cooks, it was like second nature for her. Growing up, Brenda rarely saw recipes for main dishes, so she especially treasures her mother’s recipes for desserts.

Brenda gathers inspiration by watching cooking shows and searching online. She loves gathering recipes from food blogs. Her favorite recipes are those that can be changed around easily based on what she has on hand or what is on sale at the store.

Cooking and baking allow Brenda to use her creative side. She also loves to sew, decorate with repurposed items, and garden. Their family garden yielded an impressive crop this year and she has been busy canning.

Brenda doesn’t have any one type of food she likes to cook the most. She loves Tex-Mex, homestyle cooking, and claims there isn’t anything she can’t grill (including fish sticks, see recipe below for fish tacos).

Lasagna Soup

Brenda is a soup lover and is excited soup season is drawing near. This is a very easy soup to throw together on a cool evening and Brenda says it makes great leftovers.

1lb hamburger, browned (I like to brown it with a little bit of green pepper and onion)
1 box of chicken broth
1 can Hunt’s pasta sauce
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
1/3 box of campanelle pasta (by Barilla or you can just break up a few lasagna noodles)
½ cup leftover wine (optional)

Brown and drain hamburger and set aside. In a large pot, combine broth, tomatoes, and sauce, bring to a boil. Add noodles and cook until noodles are done. Stir in hamburger and serve with a dollop of ricotta cheese and sprinkle with finely shredded Italian cheese and a little Parmesan cheese.


Brenda and her family lived in West Texas for five years before moving back to the Carroll area and she developed a taste for Tex-Mex.

She says, “The flavors are simple and fairly easy to duplicate in my kitchen. I like that the recipes are flexible.”

She found this three-in-one recipe online. The original recipe was for pork flautas and it was an instant hit with Brenda’s family. After that she developed a chicken version based on Chili’s Southwestern eggrolls. The third version made with hamburger was especially for son, Dylan, who loves the crispitos served for school lunch.

Pork filing

First take one pork roast (about 2 lbs) and rub it with 1 package of taco seasoning. Next put some oil in a pan, heat to smoking, and give the shoulder a nice crusty sear on all sides. Then place it in a crock pot and surround it with half of an onion cut into large chunks. Dice the other half of the onion and sauté it along with some garlic in the remaining oil and brown bits in the pan. Cook until the onion begins to soften.

To make the sauce for the crock pot: add 1 can of El Pato tomato sauce (you can buy this locally in the grocery store, likely in the Hispanic food section. It’s a yellow can with a duck on it. This is a great spicy tomato sauce that kicks up the flavor in many Mexican foods). Bring that to a simmer, stirring to get all the brown bits up off the bottom of the pan. Then add about 2 cups of chicken stock, and bring it to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, kill the heat and pour into the crock pot over the meat and onions. Pop on the lid and cook the meat for about 6 hours or until it falls apart (for best results, baste the meat with the liquid while it’s cooking). When ready to serve, shred the pork.

Chicken filling

2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
3 Tablespoons minced green onion
3 Tablespoons minced red bell pepper
1/3 cup frozen corn kernels
1/4 cup black beans, rinsed and drained (freeze rest for another use)
3 Tablespoons frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
3 Tablespoons diced jalapeno peppers
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
salt to taste
3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Combine all ingredients.

Hamburger filling:
Prepare 1 lb hamburger with taco seasoning according to package instructions.

To assemble the flautas:
In a pan, ¼ inch deep, add some canola or peanut oil to a pan and heat until it begins to smoke slightly. Place a flour tortilla (I use the large burrito size) in the oil until it puffs. This will take all of 3-4 seconds. With tongs, flip it over, until it puffs again and remove and place it on a plate covered with a paper towel. Repeat until you have lightly fried all of the tortillas, placing a paper towel between each one on the plate as you go (I’ve also just patted them quickly with a paper towel and stacked them right on top of each other.)

Using your filling of choice, place a row of meat toward one side of the tortilla (just left or right of center) and sprinkle with a little shredded cheese (we like Colby Jack). Then roll it up and place it on a jellyroll pan with about an inch of space between them. Continue this process for all the tortillas or all the meat, whichever you run out of first (just depends on how heavy you fill them). Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes (until the tortillas are golden brown). Before serving, top with your favorite Tex-Mex toppings like salsa, sour cream, cheese, lettuce.

Brenda’s Fresh Salsa

A cowboy in Texas gave Brenda this recipe for salsa. Over time she tweaked it a bit and made it her own. She made it for their church group in Texas and it was given the nickname, “Pretty Darn Good for a Yankee Salsa”. This salsa is a staple in Brenda’s house.

1 (28 oz) can of diced tomatoes
1 bunch of cilantro
jalapenos (how many really depends on how hot you like it and the heat of the peppers, it is best to start with one)
kosher salt

Cut jalapeno(s) in half, length-wise and seed with a grapefruit spoon. Cut into 1 inch pieces. Place in food processor (or blender) with a spoonful of drained tomatoes. Tear off a good handful of cilantro (if you tear near the tops you get mostly leaves and a few stems won’t hurt). Run a knife through the cilantro (rough chop) and place in food processor. Add salt (begin with about 1/2 teaspoon) and process until everything is finely chopped. Spoon finely chopped mixture into the bowl in which you plan to store/serve the salsa. Rough chop 1/3 to ½ of a medium onion and add to food processor. Fill food processor with tomatoes and process until about the same consistency as finely chopped mixture. Add to serving/storage bowl and if you have any tomatoes left, run them through the food processor for a few pulses.

Taste test for heat, amount of cilantro and onion, and salt. If you need more heat (some jalapenos from the supermarket can be VERY mild) just repeat the first prep and chop in food processor with a little of the prepared salsa (same with cilantro or onion) and add salt if needed.

Fish Tacos with Cilantro Slaw

Brenda kept hearing about fish tacos, but had never tried them. She wasn’t sure if she’d like them and then she saw them being prepared on the Food Network and decided to give them a try. She thought the recipe she tried was too bland, but had potential. She created a way to make the perfect slaw, which she says is the biggest and most important flavor of the tacos. She also created the sauce by pulling together flavors that were already in the rest of the dish. Once time in a pinch she used whole fillet fish sticks and has used them ever since. This has become one of Brenda’s quick meals to serve on a busy night.

Cilantro Slaw:
cabbage, about 2 cups sliced very thin (bagged coleslaw mix works too)
red onion, about 1/3 c sliced very thin
half of a jalapeno, finely diced
kosher salt and pepper to taste
fresh cilantro, about 1/3 cup chopped
Place all of the ingredients in a bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together equal amounts of lime juice and canola oil (about 1 1/2 Tablespoons). Pour over cabbage mixture and toss.
Note: The jalapeno adds just a hint of heat, more of a back note than anything.
4 parts mayonnaise (not miracle whip)
1part milk
1 part lime juice
Old Bay Seasoning to taste
(I use 1 Tablespoon as a “part” and it makes about a 1/2 cup of sauce. For this amount of sauce, I add about 1 teaspoon Old Bay.
To prepare fish, season it with Old Bay Seasoning and bake or grill the fish on non-stick aluminum foil according to package directions.
To assemble tacos: place desired amount of prepared fish sticks on a large warmed tortilla and top with slaw and sauce.

Mexican Rice

Brenda also found this recipe online after searching for a good rice recipe for years. She needed a delicious side dish to go along with her Tex-Mex food.
1 cup long grain rice (uncooked)
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
Heat oil in a saucepan or skillet over medium heat and add rice. Stir frequently until the rice is slightly puffed and golden brown.
When rice is beginning to brown add:

1/4-1/3 cup diced onion
1/2-1/3 cup diced bell pepper
Continue to brown rice and veggie mixture until the veggies are tender.

Then add:
1/2 tsp cumin
kosher salt to taste
1 minced garlic clove
The above steps for the rice can be done ahead of time and when you’re about 15-20 minutes from dinner time add:
1 1/2 cup chicken broth (or beef broth for a richer flavor)
1/2 cup salsa
Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover (DON’T peek!) and simmer for 15-20 min. Fluff with a fork.

Brenda’s note: I like to add my own frozen corn (about a ½ cup) in the last 5 minutes or so of cooking.

Scalloped Apples

Anything with apples is perfect for fall. Dale grew up eating this ultimate comfort food. The recipe comes from an old Halbur cookbook given to Brenda by Dale’s mom, Rosie Pottebaum, of Halbur. It was originally supposed to be a side dish to pork chops, but it makes a yummy dessert, especially with a scoop of ice cream on top. Brenda warns this dish is highly addictive.

1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup flour
8 cups peeled and chopped apples

3/4 cup melted butter (divided)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 cups corn flakes

Pour lemon juice and 1/2 cup butter over apples. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, and flour and mix with apples. Arrange apples in a greased (I can’t emphasize how important this is, if you don’t you’ll have apple cement) 9x13 pan. In the same small bowl, toss corn flakes with remaining 1/4 c melted butter and sprinkle on top of the apple mixture. Bake apples at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until apples are tender.

Brenda’s note: Allow to cool before eating. Straight out of the oven it is so hot, we call it “napalm,” so beware!