About Me

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Simply put, I love food. I revel in everything about it: taste, texture, preparation, presentation, etc. The most favored aspect for me is the social aspect of food…learning to cook from one’s mother, preparing food with friends, grilling out, potlucks, dinner parties or simply meeting for dinner. I light up watching the people I love eat the food that I create. It still truly amazes me how food brings us together. So a little about me. Now in my early 30s, I’ve learned all I know about cooking from my mother and grandmothers. My Midwestern roots are definitely reflected in my cooking style and the recipes that I choose as I am very “meat and potatoes” centric and heavy handed with the butter sometimes. More later, but for now Happy Nomming!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Who Knew I Could Make Scallops? SCALLOPS!

So preparing fish or seafood of any type frankly scares the bejeebus out of me, if I'm being honest. It's tricky (or so I thought!) and if you screw it up, you've just thrown away a small fortune in dry or chewy or par-cooked fish.  Scallops are no exception to this rule, at least not for me.  I'll make cheap grocery store tilapia all day long  (Make = season and throw in the cast iron skillet and bake it), but anything more challenging gave me the cold sweats.
Why now?  Why did I brave the unknown and expensive meaty mollusk?  Well, here's the thing folks, food cravings can be very ugly sometimes.  Alone these cravings can be manageable.  However, when coupled with the yearnings of others, the force is out of control. 
So here's the short version:  One of my new favorite terms is 'love food.'  See I started dating this amazing guy and as one does (I'm saying it like that so it seems normal to cook copious amounts of baked goods for a person your interested in.  Totally normal, right?), I bake for him. And bake for him and bake some more.  Being generous, he takes a lot of these baked goods to work to share.  One of the women in the office asked him, after the 3rd or 4th pan of brownies, cake or cookies showed up, who was baking him all of this "LOVE FOOD?"  I think I latched on to it because she's right! Personally, I'm holding my mother accountable for this trait. Love you, MOM!
So both having an untamed craving for sea scallops (I think bay scallops are weak and rubbery, but don't tell them I said that.), I went to my local fresh fish market.  **Ok, yes I live in the Midwest and yes, mine is a landlocked state, but with the miracle of technology and scorcery, we too can enjoy FRESH seafood.
With that, I shall blame him for this although it's a good 'blame'.  Really more like, give him credit because this buttery little dudes were delcious! This, my friends, is LOVE food:

Sea Scallops with Bacony White Beans & Spinach.  Oh! and LEMON*

3 tasty pieces of bacon, chopped into 1/4" chunks of goodness
1/2 of an onion, diced (I used white, but sweet would be good as well)
1 clove of garlic, minced
3-4 cups of spinach (1 bag of fresh spinach should do the trick)
1 lb of sea scallops (8-10)
2 T butter
Juice of one lemon

Heat a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook the bacon until crispy and your house smells of angels. Add the onion and garlic; saute until the onion is soft and translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the white beans and spinach and simmer until the beans are hot.  Reduce heat to low, add spinach and cover to keep warm while you sear some scallops! Heat a large cast-iron skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Blot the scallops dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Melt butter in your skillet and add scallops.  Sear each side for approximately 2-3 minutes, until deeply caramelized.  Add the lemon juice to the beans and plate (2-4 servings depending on how hungry your crowd is.  The two of us killed the scallops and left some spinach mess behind). Top white beans and spinach with seared scallops and serve.

*Let's be realistic.  Having never made a scallop in my life, I did not brave this without some direction.  I modified this recipe from Women's Health.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Vanilla Applesauce

So apples are about the most perfect fruit on the planet, as far as I am concerned. They come in a multitude of varieties: sweet, tart, crispy, firm and soft.  Whatever your taste, there's an apple variety to suit it. 

Not only that, they're a perfect complement to any meal or food. Com'n does it get any better?  They are great as a stand alone, sublime in salads and don't even get me started on what they can do for a pork dish!  Seriously, some day I will post my sausage, onion, apple, rice dish thingy.  Everyone thinks I'm nuts when I set it down in front of them and then they eat it. I'm pretty sure that's it's changed lives before. Ok, well maybe not, but at least it's given a select few a new perspective on what this crisp fruit can do for a dish.

Fall in Indiana marks so many awesome things, but my favorite is probably the onslaught of apples that hit the Farmer's Market.  I have a lovely friend that helps out with THE apple guy at my local Farmer's Market.  I'd be completely remiss not to mention, Lee's Orchard from Columbus, Indiana, here.  After telling him that I turned his beautiful apples and pears into a vanilla sauce last week, he hooked me up with a whole bunch of 'seconds' apples this weekend.  You know, those apples that aren't as attractive as the others.  The sad, the lonely, the bruised ones at the bottom of the bushel.  Josh informed me that apples split or crack after the first heavy rain following a dry spell. Who knew?  Well, all the same, these blemished (still a strong believer that beauty is in the eye of the beholder) apples sure make a wonderful sauce.

Vanilla Applesauce
1-1 1/2 pounds of sweet pears
4-5 lbs of apples (any variety) cored, peeled and cubed
2-3 whole vanilla beans
juice from one lemon (approximately 2 Tablespoons)
1 cup water
1/3-1/2 cup brown sugar (reduce or omit based on the sweetness of the apple variety you use)
1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon, to taste

First, turn your fingers into prunes by chopping up all of that fruit and throw it in a stockpot or big ol' saucepan.  For this round, I used Goldrush (crisp & tart) & Grimes Golden (softer and slightly sweet).  Last week, I used Lee's Fuji's and the sauce turned out pretty darn amazing as well.

Next, give your sweet dog a few bites of apple because she sat there and watched you diligently as you peeled and cut apples for the last hour. (and, well, because she's adorable!)

Then, split the vanilla beans lengthwise and combine them and the remainder of the ingredients with the apples.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.  Remove cover and simmer until water all but absorbed, about another 15-20 minutes.   

It smells so good!!!  Remove the vanilla beans and scrape the good inside bits of them into the sauce. Now you have options, you can food process the cooked apples into a smooth sauce or use a manual potato masher and leave it chunkier.

Sweet Potato Pie with Bacon Crust & Pecan Topping

So I've already starting 'practice' cooking for Thanksgiving.  I seriously think my addiction to baking may be getting out of control considering my annual Turkey Day usually consists of about 10-12 family members and a minimum of three pies.  I've typically shown up with some sort of chocolate dessert for this occasion.  I've never understood why more chocolate desserts aren't on the table for this holiday?  Chocolate is so good and, let's be honest, should be a part of every meal and probably the food pyramid or food scale or food rhombus or whatever version of food geometry the FDA is imposing on us these days.

A dose a fall smacked me in the face this week and sweet potato pie just sounded like a good idea. But then again, when doesn't pie seem like a good idea?

The Crust!

1 slightly heaping cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons cold butter
2 Tablespoons of chilled bacon grease
~ 3 Tablespoons ice water

In your handy dandy food processor, mix together flour and salt.  Cube and add butter, pulsing about a half dozen times to cut it in.  Repeat with delicious bacon grease.  Slowly add water 1 Tablespoon at a time until dough comes together.  There's a fine line between perfect and a sticky mess here so pay attention!  You may not need all 3 Tablespoons as indicated above.  Once dough forms a ball, press into a disk with waxed paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes or more.

The Innards

2 cups peeled, cooked & mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla (I make my own.  Someday I will post that recipe.)
1 cup milk (I use 1/2 cup heavy cream + 1/2 cup 1% milk)

1/3 cup of brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In your electric mixer (or use a hand mixer),  mix together all of the innard ingredients except the milk and mix thoroughly. Add milk and stir to combine.  Set aside.

Roll out your pie crust on a floured surface to the appropriate size.  *The fats in this crust will soften the more you handle them, and you'll quickly have a gooey, sticky mess if you fuss with it too much. With that, the easiest way to roll it out is under a piece of waxed or parchment paper.

After you get your crust rolled, situated and appropriately scalloped (I don't do this, it's too much trouble) into a beautiful masterpiece in your pie plate, use a fork to prick holes all over the bottom of that thing so that it doesn't bubble up while baking. 

Sprinkle brown sugar all over the bottom of the crust.  Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  If your crust edges start to brown too quickly, tent with foil. 

Cool on a rack for about an hour and then move to the fridge to cool completely.

The Toppin

2 Tablespoons of melted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add sugar & pecans and mixed until incorporated.  You can add a tablespoon of heavy cream here, if you'd like but it's not necessary. 

Feel free to top cooled pie after the toppin's have cooled off a bit or serve this nut mixture on the side, since some crazy people (my father, for instance) don't like nuts in their baked goods.

And there ya have have it.

Now go forth and add a little bacon to your favorite Thanksgiving classic!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Coffee Cupcake (Literally) with Salted Caramel Frosting

So I part-time at a local tap room/restaurant and absolutely adore the people I work with!  When I started enjoying craft beer, this was the place I'd go.  Now that I've been working there, I've started creating recipes using beer.  This isn't one of those recipes, that was just an A.D.D. moment. 
Regardless, I bake something almost weekly and take it in to the restaurant to share.  Almost everyone has made a request of me at some point or another. Brownies, Cheesecake, MORE chocolate cookies or the occasional "Do you think you good make X?" (Fill in the blank).  Last week, one of the guys was going on about Starbucks' Salted Caramel Mocha and how he's become addicted to them (and this, folks, is why I call it Crackbucks).  He asked if I could make a baked good that tasted like that.  Challenge accepted.  While I don't think I nailed it at all, this cupcake is fridiculous!!!! Yea, I said FRIDICULOUS! Pretty sure the only way to improve it would be to make it a brown butter coffee cupcake and add some bacon...hmmm...maybe next time. ENJOY!

Literally Coffee Cake*
compliments of The Pioneer Woman

2 cups Flour
2 cups Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt
2 sticks Butter
3 Tablespoons Instant Coffee Crystals or instant espresso
1/2 cup Buttermilk
2 whole Eggs
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
2 teaspoons Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two round baking pans or line muffin pan with cupcake liners.  In a large bowl, mix sugar, flour, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
Melt 2 sticks of butter in a pot over medium-low heat. While that's melting, add 3 tablespoons instant coffee to 1 cup boiling water. Set aside.

Once butter has melted, add coffee mixture to the butter in the pot. Let it come to a boil for about ten seconds, then turn off the heat. Set aside for just a minute.

In a separate bowl, add buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Mix until well combined.

Pour the butter/coffee mixture into the flour mixture. Stir the mixture together gently. The purpose here isn’t to mix it together perfectly, but to cool down the heat before adding the egg mixture.
Add in the egg mixture and stir gently until well combined. Then pour into prepared pans (3/4 full for cupcakes). Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until set for cake rounds. Or, if making cupcakes, drop the temperature to 325 and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Allow to cool completely below icing with the ridiculous recipe that follows.

Salted Caramel Frosting
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy  cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 tsp sea salt
4 powdered sugar

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. Stir only until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, and stop stirring. Continue cooking over medium-high heat until the caramel becomes a deep amber brown color, about 7-10 minutes. There's about a 1 minute window between dark amber & burned all to hell so keep an eye on it at 6 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly stir in heavy cream and vanilla. Let cool for at least 30 minutes. Cream the butter and salt together until fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar until fully combined.  Add the caramel (once cooled to room temperature and beat again until fluffy.  You may have to add more powdered sugar to get the correct consistency.

Icing those bad boys and then drizzle chocolate syrup on them (I use dark. Always). Combine 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt with 1/4 teaspoon of espresso powder.  Garnish at will. Don't get carried away here, a few granules on each will make them pretty without being a salty coffeey chaos!

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Pancake Muffin

So I started a new job and got increasingly lazy with the whole blogging thing.

I love pancakes and I don't discriminate, well expect Buckwheat pancakes, I just can't get on board with those for some reason. But all of the other types are fine by me: plain, stuffed, whole wheat, lemon curd, yogurt, oat, whatever...shove them in my face covered in butter & maple syrup (and maybe some peanut butter) and I'm gonna to eat them.  HOWEVER, I hate making breakfast for someone (because who really makes pancakes solely for themselves. Um, well, I guess I do, but all the same) and not being able to sit down and eat with them because I am standing over a griddle waiting for the next batch of cakes to finish cooking so BEHOLD The Pancake Muffin!

This is so simple, it's almost ridiculous! 

Spray a muffin tin with oil. I use canola because, well, I like it.  Fill each round about 2/3 full with your favorite pancake batter recipe.  For this recipe, I use King Arthur Flour's Simply Perfect Pancakes. Top with some mix-ins.  The one pictured above contains blueberry and almonds, but you can use just about anything. Think bananas, chocolate chips, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, etc or you can savory this little dude up with some cheese and chives too.  I'd omit the sugar in the linked recipe if you're going to go savory on this one (bacon & cheddar or add some goat cheese to the blueberry almond, but that's just off the top of my head). 

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until the edges get golden brown.

Serve with butter, peanut butter and warm maple syrup.  There ya go, no more standing over the stove while everyone but you enjoys warm pancakes!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bacon Jam

So I've had some major stuff going on lately and let the blog get a little (ok, a lot) behind. Regardless, I am back AND now with more BACON!

I begun to compile a list of foods that I would like to roll around naked in/on. These are those foods that I find so appealing and bring such joy to my taste buds that well...yea, you get it. Bacon Jam was just added to this list. Congratulations, Bacon Jam. Congratulations.

No, seriously, my mom sent me this recipe not too long ago in a not so subtle attempt to get me to make it for her. Well, cheers to her for appealing to my bacon side with this nonsense.  Henceforth to be known as my new favorite condiment. Allow me to introduce...BACON JAM!

*Compliments of King Arthur Flour Company

  • 1 1/2 pounds bacon
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup boiled cider (available at KAF.com)
  • 3/4 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Slice the bacon into 1" slices and cook in a large skillet until well browned. Drain fat. 
    Place the cooked bacon and all other ingredients into a 2 quart or larger crock pot. Cover and cook over high heat for 3 to 4 hours.  The smell of this cooking will likely break your will to do anything productive besides sitting very still and inhaling.*
    Remove the cooked jam from the crock pot, fish out the bay leaves, and carefully transfer to a food processor or blender. Pulse until the consistency is to your liking, a soft spreadable jam. You can leave the bacon in larger bits or pulse until very small, your choice. 
    If you find the jam too liquid for your taste, transfer to a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the liquid has evaporated and the jam is thick and syrupy. Adjust the seasonings and serve warm. Store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Warm in the microwave before serving.

*If you consider sitting still and inhaling to be productive, please visit your local library or a specialist.  Go with the latter. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Candied Bacon Apple Pancakes

If you have been following this blog even in the very slightest, you know of my sickening obsession with all things bacon.  So it should come as no great surprise that I have found a delicious way to make it a part of a complete, well-balanced breakfast (well not really, unless you add some fruit & veggies and other generally healthy food items).

All the same, it took a couple of tries but I've finally gotten these bad boys nailed down to the point of moist bacon debauchery! Enjoy...

1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon honey (optional depending on how sweet you like your pancakes)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat (or pastry whole wheat) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium apple, grated
5-6 slices of candied bacon, cooled and coarsely chopped

Maple syrup

Whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda & salt.  Mix in grated apple and set aside.
Whisk together milks, eggs and honey.  Combine wet ingredients with dry and allow to stand for 10-15 minutes.  Fold in chopped bacon (follow the link above to learn how to candy bacon).

Spoon 1/4 cup of batter onto preheated griddle or lightly oiled skillet.  Cook until tops become bubbly (about 2-3 minutes).

Flip to cook through.You can store cooked pancakes in an oven preheated to 250 degrees until all are finished and you are ready to serve, if you would like.  Adorn with butter and maple syrup. Dive in!