Jody’s Food Memories

With only a few more days left in December, today I’m wrapping up our series sharing our food memories.

When I think of the holidays, a food that comes to mind is the jello that my mom makes for our Christmas dinner. Though the other food we have at Christmas changes year to year, the jello is a staple on the table. And it was this past Christmas too!

The bottom layer of the salad is yellow and is a mixture of crushed pineapple, whipped cream, and cream cheese. The second layer is green jello and the third layer is red jello. Every year my mom makes the salad in the same glass bowl so you can see the different colored layers. The glass bowl is as much a part of the tradition as the jello. The color of the salad brightens up the table and adds some holiday cheer!

What salads or side dishes are part of your holiday meals? Share with us on our Facebook page.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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It’s Monkey Bread Time of the Year

As far back as I can remember, food has been an integral part of my family’s holiday traditions. If you asked me what my mom would serve on a specific holiday, I could recite entire menus that I have carried into my own holiday traditions as an adult. There is something special about being able to make the same recipes that so vividly stick out to me from my childhood that made holidays extra special. A favorite dish at our house for Christmas is called ‘sticky buns’, commonly known as monkey bread.

Christmas Eve growing up was the same year to year. After returning home from our Christmas Eve church service, my sisters and I would get ready for bed and our mom would head to the kitchen, still in her church dress and tights, prepping for Christmas day breakfast. Sticky buns, or monkey bread, would have to sit overnight on the counter for the rolls to rise prior to baking the next morning. As I got older, I remember hanging out in the kitchen with my mom the evening of Christmas Eve to help measure the ingredients and rearrange the frozen dough balls in the Bundt pan. On Christmas morning, we would wake up to the smell of cinnamon and butterscotch flowing throughout the house.

As the years have gone on and I have begun making this same dish for my family, I have tweaked it a little and added chocolate chips or butterscotch chips to the pan for extra sweetness. Making monkey bread for Christmas day helps me feel connected to my family even though we are separated by 1,000+ miles for the holidays. Our new tradition is to send completed pictures of our sticky buns/monkey bread to one another to see how the dish has evolved over the years. My husband looks forward to Christmas breakfast, mainly because of my family’s infamous breakfast tradition. I envision my daughter, who recently turned 3, helping me in the kitchen after Christmas Eve church service this year to help me prep our monkey bread.

What dishes or scents bring about happy memories for you around the holidays? Please share your family favorite dishes with us!

Cheers to making your family favorite dishes during this holiday season!


Katy Moscoso

Katy Moscoso is a Program Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. As a new mom she is always on the lookout for easy, healthy recipes to prepare for her family.

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Christine’s Food Memories

This month we are kicking off a new Spend Smart. Eat Smart. series celebrating food memories. Food is so much more than fuel for our bodies. It has ties to our families, traditions and cultures and is a source of pleasure in our lives. This month you will hear from me, Katy and Jody on some of our strongest food memories.

The memory I would like to share is not tied to a fancy meal. It’s actually very simple. On my mom’s side of our family, we have always had a seasoned nut and cereal mix around Thanksgiving and Christmas. We call it scrabble. When I was a child, my Grandma Betty would make it and the smell of the garlic and Worcestershire sauce would permeate her whole house throughout the season. She would have huge popcorn tins full of it so that the small bowls around her house could be refilled anytime.

Now I make scrabble for these holidays and though our family skips the nuts due to allergies, it is otherwise pretty much the same. I even have the wooden paddle Grandma Betty used to stir it when she made it. As soon as I mix it up and put it in the oven, it feels like the holidays are here. I think this is a great example of how strong the memories tied to food are. There is a Baby Betty in our family’s youngest generation and we may just have to teach her how to make scrabble.

Will you let us know some of the foods that inspire strong memories for you on our Facebook page? We would love to hear your stories.

Happy Holidays!

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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