Tired Of Scotcheroos? Try These Iowans’ Favorite Comfort Food Recipes

We’ve all been cooking more this year, and while comfort foods are comfortable because they are familiar, we wanted to explore the wide array of taste present in Iowa so you can try something new. We asked Iowans what their favorite comfort foods were. Here’s what they said.


Submitted by Suzanne Boyde.

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Suzanne Boyd

Ostkaka with “Var sa god” plate, which means “Help yourself” in Swedish.

“When my 4 paternal grandparents sailed independently from Tuna in southern Sweden to Essex, a small farming community in southwestern Iowa, during our Civil War, they brought along a taste for Swedish rye bread and ostkaka. These homemade foods remain favorites of my siblings and myself today, though unfortunately we no longer eat them on a regular basis.

ostkaka ingredients suzanne boyd.jpg

Suzanne Boyd

Aluminum pan of ostkaka, bond ost (Swedish cheese that tastes like rich cheddar), and traditional lingonberry jelly.

“Ostkaka, translated as cheesecake, is made differently than its U.S. cousin we are used to eating today. For one thing the recipe calls for you to first make your own cheese for it. Then you add cream, sugar and eggs and bake it like a custard. Ostkaka is served with a topping of tart fruit flavored sauce called kram. The result is a subtly sweet, creamy but dense dessert with a chewy texture. The tartness of the tablespoon or two of kram really sets it off.

“Of the 3 recipes I have collected in my family cookbook this is my favorite. It is my friend Pam’s Swedish Grandma’s recipe. It uses one gallon of whole milk. The other two recipes are more modern. One uses dry milk and the other uses white bread cubes.

“Kram, the topping served on the side, is traditionally made from lingonberries, kind of rare in Iowa, so most cooks I knew when I was young (I am 74) used home canned, unsweetened Concord grape juice: Mix together 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 3 tablespoons of water in a saucepan and add 2 cups juice. Stir and heat until the sauce thickens and becomes clear.”

Josie's Ostkaka.png

Aunt Deanie’s Can’t Wait Apple Cake

Submitted by Judy Brewer.

“My mom’s family had a farm just down the road from a large apple orchard. The lived very simply (poor). All the kids went to a small one room school house between the farm and the orchard. Apples and apple season were in many happy memories they had.

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Judy Brewer

Judy Brewer making Aunt Deanie’s Can’t Wait Apple Cake.

“My parents were both dead by the time my sister and I graduated from college, but my California aunt would roll into town every couple of years and ALWAYS made this cake for us. If she stayed at three relatives homes, she typically made it at each stop. It was only later I realize how many of my families [sic] stories were lost due to my parent’s early deaths.

“Today, I have these rich memories of Aunt Deanie story telling in the kitchen as she baked. She would share memories of happy times with the Vaughns, at the orchard, the trials and tribulations of being young during the depression, and what must have been months of 3 meals a day consisted [sic] mainly of rice. It was apparent how deeply her memories revolved around apples, friendship, hardship and survival. These were shared not just with my generation, but the next.

“I will forever remember her, her skill with a paring knife, the sound of her laughter in my kitchen, the smell of baking apples, and the joy of us all sitting at the table enjoying warm cake with ice cream melting atop. Aunt Deanie’s Can’t Wait Apple Cake is rich with memories for all of our family.”


сырники (Syrniki)

Submitted by Michael Libin and Nadia Libin.

nadia making syrniki.jpg

“In the early 1990s my parents made the momentous decision to leave the Soviet Union, and immigrate to America. Eventually they settled down in Clive. For them, the United States was a whole new world, but they did miss one old world treat: Syrniki.

“Syrniki or сырники are fried cottage cheese pancakes often with raisins and served with jam, sour cream, or my personal favorite, Nutella.”

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Cinnamon Potatoes

Submitted by Madeline Dunbar.

“I first learned how to make cinnamon potatoes from my mother. My mother immigrated to America from Greece in the early 80s. While studying abroad in Heidelberg Germany, she met my father who also happened to be studying there through an exchange program. They quickly fell for each other, and within a year she had followed him back to the states and they began their lives together. Growing up, my siblings and I had an extremely diverse diet which included a lot of Greek and Mediterranean foods. A surprising but common spice used in Greek cooking is cinnamon.

“Cinnamon Potatoes is one of the simplest but most delicious recipes. Most Greeks make this recipe during the winter months. It is perfect for winter because it is cheap, easy, filling, and has a very comforting smell. My mother learned this recipe from hers just from watching her make it frequently. As most of my mother’s family recipes, there are no specific measurements, only approximations learned through observation. Therefore, the recipe provided is my best approximation learned through my mother.

“Though tasty on their own, my family likes to top the potatoes with a fried egg, crumbled feta, and a bit of fresh basil. Good luck and enjoy!!”

cinnamon potatoes ingredients
cinnamon potatoes instructions

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