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In the Kitchen with... Terri Holmgren
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Ben Lochard
IN THE KITCHEN WITH... December 2017/January 2018
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Terri Holmgren
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Check out these recipes from Terri Holmgren:

Terri’s Reuben Rolls

Rosemarie Holmgren’s Cinnamon Stars

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Johnston cook keeps the tradition of German heritage recipes alive for her family at the holidays.

Many Iowa families keep ethnic traditions alive, pulling out favorites from recipe boxes and cookbooks. It’s especially true at the holidays it seems.

For Terri Holmgren of Johnston, traditional recipes are an absolute must. The recipes she relies on are from her husband Ron’s late mother, Rosemarie Holmgren, who grew up in Germany and came to this country after World War II. She met her husband in Munich when he served overseas.

“What’s special is that I got to learn directly from her,” Terri says. “She used a pinch of that and a knife tip of that, as did many cooks of her era. They didn’t need to measure everything.”

Terri’s holiday table is laden with a full German dinner—Reuben Rolls for appetizers, beef rouladen, red cabbage, spaetzle from scratch, potato dumplings, gravy, and German Cinnamon Stars cookies. Plus, she serves many other baked goodies. Terri created the Reuben Rolls, adapting German flavors. “Everywhere I take them, people want more.”

Terri and Ron, both retired from being special education teachers in the Des Moines school system, now have more time to tend their acreage. “My parents built this place, and it was the only spot out here for many years, before Johnston developed around it,” Terri explains. “Ron and I met at the University of Wisconsin and ultimately bought the place, and I moved home, literally.”

Hearty eaters

The couple has one daughter and four sons. Their daughter and her husband have four strapping sons, so Terri cooks huge quantities of food when the clan gets together. During the summer, Terri cans produce for later. Her larder is stocked with canned peaches, tomatoes, apple pie filling, corn, carrots, sauerkraut, beets, and soup.

Terri’s favorite inherited recipe is for beef rouladen. “It starts with tenderized beef, like minute steak, that is covered with a mixture of bacon, onion, and mustard. A pickle and a carrot are rolled up inside each portion. You roll it up and cover with tomato sauce. The gravy is absolutely insane.”

She can do the prep work for that the day before Christmas. The same is true of the red cabbage, but the spaetzle must be done the day it is served.

For the dumplings, Terri uses a mix called Panni, made by Knorr. If she can’t find it, her Hy-Vee will order it for her. She makes about 45 dumplings to serve her crowd of about 20. “I love that on the box it says to put a crouton in the middle of the dumpling to make sure the center gets done and is not mushy. That’s exactly the tip my mother-in-law always used.”

The Holmgrens went to Germany on their three-week honeymoon 38 years ago. “My mother-in-law traveled with us, always a fun conversation starter. She visited her relatives while we toured the countryside on a boat and bus tour.”

Festive foods

Terri has always loved to cook and says she makes a mean lasagna and has enjoyed competing in chili contests. She notes that it’s really hard now to cook for just two people most days. But she gets her big-family fix on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and several family special birthday meals during the year.

At Christmastime she enjoys decorating with her collection of about 100 various Santa Claus figures and her hand-carved German candle carousel.

German cooking is known to be a bit, uh, on the heavy side. “It’s only for one day. And the dumplings are lighter than you think, so it works,” Terri says with a smile.

Kris Kringle, the German gift giver, would no doubt agree.

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