Ring in the New Year with Family Traditions

Have you made New Year’s traditions?

My boyfriend, Spenser Gruis, and I have a few traditions we enjoy each New Year.  For the past 5 years, we have spent New Year’s Eve with his parents, Scott and Cheryl Gruis.  The Gruis family works hard at their family-owned towing company.  When we actually get the chance to sit down all together for a nice meal, we want to take full advantage of it!

That’s why, during the afternoon of each New Year’s Eve, Cheryl and I drive 30 minutes to Mason City where we wait about 3 hours outside the infamous Northwestern Steakhouse.  Northwestern Steakhouse is one of Mason City’s hidden treasures.  Established in 1920, it sits on the very most northern edge of Mason City nuzzled between the baseball fields where many citizens spend their summers playing ball.  When the steakhouse opens at 5 p.m., it’s a mad rush to get a table.

New Year’s Day is another afternoon filled with fun, family, friends and food – of course!  Spenser and I travel to the American Legion in St. Ansgar, Iowa, for Vegetable Beef Soup and pull tabs.  Every year we sit in the exact same spot with the exact same people.  Spenser has been doing this ever since he can remember, and I can’t help but call it a tradition myself.

The whole day is dedicated to help raise money for the American Legion.  The St. Ansgar community comes together, young and old.  We eat warm soup, pull some tabs and register for the annual drawing.  Last year I won $25!  I thought it was the greatest thing.

It’s become a tradition that none of us would miss for anything!  What better way to ring in the New Year than with family?  No matter who your family consists of, holiday traditions are important.  Traditions give family a reason to stay close by spending time together.  And, in my book, it doesn’t get much better than that!

Vegetable Beef Soup


  • 1 boneless beef chuck roast (2-½ to 3 pounds)
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 cup medium pearl barley
  • 1-½ cups chopped onion
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1½ cups chopped carrots
  • 1 package (16 ounces) frozen mixed vegetables
  • ¼ cup minced fresh parsley
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic salt


  1. Place roast in a large Dutch oven. Add the water, barley, onion, celery, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1-1/4 hours or until meat is tender.
  2. Remove meat; cool. Cut into bite-size pieces. Skim fat from broth. Add beef and remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender. 

Yield: 18-20 servings (6 quarts).

Greek Steak & Pasta



  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter (not margarine)
  • ¼ cup light olive oil
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes crushed
  • ¼ heaping teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Greek seasoning (Cavender’s)
  • 2, (2-inch thick) beef tenderloin steaks
  • 8 ounces of spaghetti, (cooked & drained)
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese



  1. Heat the butter, olive oil, bouillon cubes, garlic powder and seasoning in a sauce pan until the butter is melted, stirring frequently.
  2. Pour over steaks in a small baking pan. Turn the steaks to coat.
  3. Bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes, then turn the steaks.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes longer or to desired doneness.
  5. Remove the steaks to serving plate.
  6. Combine the hot pasta and pan juices in a bowl and toss to coat.
  7. Top generously with cheese and serve with steaks.
NOTE: This recipe makes steaks that taste very close to those at Northwestern Steakhouse, but I think their secret is the oven they cook it in – or at least that's what the waitresses tell me. ;)