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Schooled in the kitchen

By Staff | Dec 26, 2014

SAM MCGOWAN prepares ingredients for her pomegranate salsa, a family favorite New Year’s appetizer.



SIOUX CITY – Being home-schooled in the McGowan household includes lessons in the kitchen.

Parents Chris McGowan, president of Siouxland Initiative, and Cathleen McGowan, a homemaker on the Sioux City-area farm, see to that.

On this day, the two oldest McGowan children, Sam, 14, and Nick, 13, prepared samples of party favorites they’ll enjoy Wednesday night as they observe the New Year’s approach.

HOLIDAY GINGERBREAD houses created by the McGowans for holiday table decorating.

“Our kids are fortunate in that they are part of a big extended family,” said Cathleen McGowan when considering plans for New Year’s entertaining. “Lots of times all the cousins get together and do pizzas and snacks.

“If the parents do go out, the older cousins are left in charge, and the kids may have friends over as well. We like to serve appetizers they all enjoy.”

The McGowans shared their holiday favorites earlier this month while hosting the annual Woodbury County Lassies and Lads 4-H Club Christmas get-together.

“I’ve always enjoyed being in the kitchen,” McGowan said. “Growing up in Chicago in a Polish family as I did, I learned a lot from my grandmother who liked to cook.

“I’m thankful in that she taught me a great deal that I in turn enjoy passing on to our children. “

SAM MCGOWAN and brothers, Nick, left, and Jake, prepare to sample her pomegranate salsa.

She home schools her children in the early years of their education, she said, which gives them opportunities to share in food preparation.

They also benefit from the kitchen skills of family friends, she said, such as Lou Roach, of Sioux City, who serves as an art and religion instructor, but assists the children with holiday food decorations including this year’s gingerbread houses they displayed at the 4-H club party.

Sam McGowan, a Bishop Heelan High School freshman, was busy at the kitchen counter preparing ingredients for her New Year’s appetizer – pomegranate salsa.

She’s prepared it for the family for the past several years explaining the recipe was accidentally discovered by her mother while making a stop at a local Hy-Vee store.

“She’d been shopping when the store dietitian invited her to sample the salsa,” Sam McGowan said. “She liked it and got the ingredients and has adjusted it a bit for how we like it.”

Although removing the pomegranate arils (seeds) can be “a bit messy,” she said, the dish has brought fresh pomegranates to the family’s healthy foods’ favorites list.

“I like to make something people say they like,” the 14-year-old said, “when they have it and it’s something you take pride in having made.

“It’s fun to see people enjoying what you’ve prepared.”

She credits 4-H food projects with sharpening her cooking and baking abilities.

Last year, she said, she brought home the grand champion award for apple pie at the Woodbury County Fair pie contest.

The favorite appetizer for Nick McGowan, a seventh-grader at Blessed Sacrament School, is his seasoned popcorn.

It’s a family tradition, he said, not only for New Year’s, but often throughout the year.

McGowan said his secret ingredient is seasoning salt.

“Everybody likes popcorn,” he said, “and this is really good.” He prefers using Jolly Time, a Sioux City product.

He said he has also learned much from 4-H projects and competitions including exhibiting his pair of albino leopard geckos in the county fair.

“I think 4-H challenges you,” the 13-year-old said, “and when you overcome these challenges you gain self-confidence.

“It also pushes you to get better each year as you may get bigger challenges and you can make a difference in your community.”

Looking ahead to the arrival of 2015, Sam and Nick said they are thinking of the possibility of making new friends, having more fun with family and being better people.

Pomegranate salsa

Arils from two pomegranates and the juice

1 pear sliced small

Juice from two limes

1/4 cup chopped purple onion

1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro

Combine all ingredients and then serve with chips, celery, or eat on its own

Cowboy caviar

1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained

1 15-ounce can black beans, drained

1 1/2 cups frozen corn, cooked

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies

3 green onions, sliced

1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Stir together kidney beans, black beans, corn, tomatoes, chilies, and onions in a large bowl.

Add lime juice, oil, salt, and pepper; toss gently to combine.


Serve with baked tortilla crisps or crackers.

If fresh limes are not available, 1/4 cup of bottled lime juice can be used.

Sweet potato fries

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 medium)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/8 teaspoon salt


1/4 cup light mayo

1 tablespoon ketchup

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, chili powder, or paprika

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Rinse potatoes under running water. Peel if desired or scrub well.

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise.

Lay each potato half flat and slice into half-round shapes about 1/4-inch thick.

Combine potatoes, oil, and salt in a bowl. Stir so potatoes are covered with oil.

Grease cookie sheet with oil and lay potato slices in a single layer.

Bake for about 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes.

While potatoes are baking, mix the dip ingredients.

Serve immediately. Serves 6.

(Notes: Sweet potato fries are best when served hot. Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin A. Ketchup can replace the dip).

Tortilla wrap ups

4 5-inch flour tortillas

4 teaspoons low-fat salad dressing, cottage cheese, or cream cheese

1 cup chopped vegetables, such as carrots, zucchini, broccoli, peppers, cauliflower.

Wash and chop vegetables.

Spread 1 teaspoon spread on half of each tortilla.

Top tortillas with 1/4 cup vegetables.

Fold tortilla in half or roll it up.

(Note: To make this recipe a little healthier by using whole grain tortillas.)

Rhonda’s deviled eggs

Serves 12

12 hard cooked eggs

1/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion

1/3 cup sweet pickle relish

1/3 cup light salad dressing

2 teaspoons prepared mustard

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Cut eggs in half lengthwise.

Remove yolks and reserve whites.

Mash together egg yolks, onion, pickle relish, salad dressing, mustard, salt and pepper with a fork.

Using a spoon, fill the whites with the yolk mixture and refrigerate until serving

(Note: If transporting the eggs, combine egg yolk filling ingredients in a one-quart plastic food-storage bag. Press out air and seal bag. Roll bag with hand until mixture is well blended. Carry whites and egg yolk mixture separately in a cooler packed with ice to the destination. When ready to serve, push egg yolk filling toward bottom corner of bag, snip off about 1/2 inch of corner, and squeeze yolk mixture from bag to fill egg white halves.)

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