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Bandstra makes food pretty at Teacups and Tiaras

By Staff | Apr 16, 2010

WEST DES MOINES-When Connie Bandstra was growing up in Coon Rapids, her mother’s busy schedule at her in-home beauty shop meant the youngster was often responsible for getting supper on the table. Never one to settle for the mundane, Bandstra used her creativity to make the meals as festive as possible.

“I’ve always enjoyed making things pretty, so even when I was serving fruit and cottage cheese, I tried to make the food look as attractive as possible,” said Bandstra, who owns Teacups and Tiaras, a tea room housed in a Victorian-era home in West Des Moines’ historic Valley Junction.

This culinary flair is evident throughout Teacups and Tiaras – as well as its extensive collection of hats and tiaras that let grown-up guests play “dress up.” This playful spirit emanates into the kitchen, where a sign reading “Make me feel special!” sets the tone for the Teacups and Tiaras experience.

“We’re so harried and busy with our lives, but I hope we never lose sight of the child within us,” said Bandstra, who opened the tea room in 2002. “That’s what Teacups and Tiaras is all about.”

A lifetime of travels and unique experiences influenced the development of Teacups and Tiaras, as well as its menu. For 24 years, Bandstra and her husband lived across the country, from Miami to Chicago to Los Angeles, which fueled Bandstra’s interest in regional cooking. These years also broadened Bandstra’s business acumen: she owned an interior decorating business in Miami, dabbled in real estate in Chicago and worked in the wholesale gift industry in Los Angeles. When they decided to return to Iowa, Bandstra apprenticed herself to a tea room owner in southern California so she would be prepared to open Teacups and Tiaras.

“I’ve always enjoyed the creative aspect of food and like to tweak recipes so I can put my own spin on them,” said Bandstra, who cites her recipe for Death by Chocolate, which appears in her 2005 cookbook, “Tasty Temptations.”

The cake recipe was the signature dessert at a southern California chain of retail stores that went out of business a number of years ago. “While the original recipe called for German chocolate cake, I was never a big fan of that, so I changed it to deep dark fudge,” said Bandstra, who’s used the recipe for nearly 25 years.

Desserts like Death by Chocolate and classic dishes like the tea room’s popular Sweet Potato and Pear Bisque have distinguished Teacups and Tiaras, which is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The tea room, which includes a party room, has become a popular destination for Red Hat Ladies groups, church groups, bridal showers, baby showers and more.

“While my cooking has evolved through the years, I continue to focus on good food made from everyday ingredients,” Bandstra said.

Sweet Potato and Pear Bisque

This unique menu item is a tea room tradition at Teacups and Tiaras.

4 cups chicken broth

1 / 4 cup onion, ground

1 / 2 teaspoon pepper

1 / 4 teaspoon ground thyme

1 40-ounce can of sweet potatoes

2 15-ounce cans of pears

1 to 2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 / 4 to 1 / 2 cup heavy cream

Bring chicken broth to a boil with onion, thyme and pepper. Process undrained sweet potatoes and pears in a food processor until smooth. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the capacity of your food processor. Add a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch to the last processing batch. Add pear and sweet potato mixture to gently boiling broth. Continue to cook until cornstarch has glazed the back of your spoon and the mixture is cooked through.

Make bisque the day ahead so the flavors can meld. When reheating, add enough cream to blend. Do not boil, as the soup will curdle. Season with salt to taste, and adjust pepper and thyme to your liking.

Baked Chicken Salad

3 cups diced chicken

2 cups celery, diced

1 / 2 cup almonds, toasted

1 / 2 cup green pepper, diced

2 tablespoons pimentos

1 / 2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons onion, chopped

1 / 2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 / 2 cup cream of chicken soup

1 / 2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Combine all ingredients in a greased 9-inch by 13-inch pan. Sprinkle mixture with crushed corn flakes or Ritz crackers that have been mixed with 1 / 4 cup butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Quiche

Basic recipe:

10 whole eggs

2 cups whipping cream

Puff pastry

Thaw puff pastry and roll in a circle on a lightly floured surface. Spray one 10-inch spring-form pan with cooking spray, and work the pastry sheet into the pan and up the sides. (Pastry sheet will not spill over the pan.). Combine eggs and whipping cream. Add the vegetables, meats and cheeses of your choice (see options below). Pour quiche mixture to the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 75 minutes or until quiche is firm.

Plan on eight generous slices out of each quiche. Bake the quiche a day in advance of serving so the flavors meld.

Additions (this is where you can let your imagination go):

  • Broccoli, pimento and cheddar cheese (plus a little lemon pepper for extra flavor).
  • Canadian bacon with wild rice, onions, thinly-sliced tomatoes, Swiss cheese and Jack cheese.
  • Ham and asparagus with Swiss and Jack cheese.
  • Mediterranean with artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives and mushrooms with Asiago, Parmesan and Romano cheeses.
  • Spinach, chicken poached in rosemary, and Swiss and Jack cheese.

Death by Chocolate

1 box of dark fudge cake mix

1 can Eagle brand condensed milk

1 jar caramel ice cream topping

1 pint whipping cream

Sugar and vanilla

Cocoa powder

Mix and bake cake according to package directions. Pour batter into a 10-inch spring-form pan that has been prepared. Bake according to package directions. After removing cake from the oven, poke holes all over the hot cake. Pour condensed milk over the cake, and then cover the cake with caramel topping. Let this mixture soak into the cake. Cool and chill for 24 hours. Whip one pint of whipping cream until the cream is stiff. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and vanilla to the whipped cream. Frost top and sides of the cake with the whipped cream. Dust cake with cocoa powder.

Contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at yettergirl@yahoo.com

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