homepage logo

Prefers homemade meals

By Staff | Jul 31, 2009

Brenda Brandes, of Gowrie, enjoys canning. Working full time a Prairie Valley Community School District has made Brandes appreciate planning ahead.

By KRISS NELSON/Farm News staff writer

GOWRIE – Healthy homemade foods in a quick, convenient method is just the way this farm cook likes to prepare meals for her family.

Brenda Brandes has been a teacher in the Prairie Valley Community School District for 19 years. She lives near Gowrie with her husband, Nathan, and their two daughters Chelsey, 18, and Anna, 15.

Working full time during the school year has made Brandes appreciate planning ahead and always being prepared.

“We make a menu and every Saturday I go buy groceries and then we are prepared for a week’s worth of meals,” said Brandes.

She also appreciates the fact that her daughters are getting old enough to where they can assist with meal preparation.

Brandes has included help from her daughters in the kitchen the same way it was for her growing up. She learned as a young girl by spending time in the kitchen helping out.

At the Brandes household, they tend to stay away from processed foods like frozen meals and those types of meals found in boxes that contain so many preservatives.

“They’re just not as good and are so high in sodium,” said Brandes.

Brandes has a garden where she’ll grow tomatoes and peppers for canning salsa and spaghetti sauce and has come up with a unique way to avoid using a pressure cooker when it comes to sealing jars and provided these quick tips for sealing jars:

  • Put jars in dishwasher and run through regular wash cycle with heated dry.
  • Prepare salsa or sauce, cook and keep hot.
  • Heat lids on stove in a pan of water for a few minutes.
  • Pour hot sauce in hot jars (make sure the rim of the jar is clean before sealing).
  • Put lid on tight and let cool on a towel on the counter.
  • You will hear them pop and seal as they cool.
  • Run finger on top of lid to check seal.

Brandes said that this technique of sealing has always worked for her, but says if one jar fails to seal, just refrigerate it.

Brandes blanches her tomatoes to make them easier to peel. First, one must wash tomatoes and place them in the sink. Boil water on the stove and then pour the boiling water over tomatoes in the sink. Let sit for one minute, drain and run cold water on them and peel the skins.


16 cups of tomatoes

5 onions red and white

3 jalapeno peppers, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

5 garlic cloves

2-3 peppers, red and yellow peppers (about 2 1/2 cups)

2 teaspoon salt

1 cup vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cilantro (one container plus more)

2 12-ounce cans of tomato paste

Bring ingredients to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.

Makes 12 pints Brandes said jars of salsa will also make nice gifts.

Spaghetti sauce for canning

16 cups of tomatoes in food processor

1/4 cup of oil

2 medium onions

3 teaspoons of garlic salt

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons chopped parsley (2 tablespoons = whole container)

2 tablespoons oregano

24 ounces tomato paste

2 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoons pepper

3-4 bay leaves

Cook uncovered for two hours. Put in jars and seal.

Makes four or more quarts.

Easiest-ever chocolate chip cookies

(Brandes said these are perfect for that last-minute cookie request for school)

1 18.25-ounce package of chocolate or yellow cake mix

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Beat first three ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until batter is smooth.

Stir in chocolate morsels and pecans. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Yield: 4 1/2 dozen.

This recipe, Brandes said, can be doubled and put into a large cookie sheet for bars, which will need to bake for about 20-minutes.

Devils food cake mix and white chocolate chips, she said, also make a delicious chocolate cookie.

Best ever pasta salad

1 pound tri-colored pasta – cooked, drained – do not rinse

Add 1 cup oil to hot pasta

Add 2 medium cucumbers peeled and sliced, 1/2 sweet onion diced, 1 red yellow pepper diced and 1 small jar pimentos.


1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

1 tablespoon regular mustard

Pour dressing over salad. Let sit in refrigerator overnight, stirring occasionally.

“It will last in refrigerator quite awhile,” Brandes said.

Serves 12+

Contact Kriss Nelson at jknelson@frontietnet.net.

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page