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!

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!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Asiago Cheese Grits

I posted this photo to my Facebook page and copious commenting ensued.  A flurry of pork and grits lovers appeared from the woodwork of my friends list and everyone seemed to be drooling. I can't imagine why?

So the recipe for the Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder with caramelized onions can be found on the lovely Epicurious Website.  The grits recipe follows and, as if I hadn't taken this nonsense far enough, I topped it with an over-easy egg at the suggestion of a foodie friend.  FOODGASM!!!

I've made these grits with various types of cheese. Cheddar works especially well if you decide to put some tasty shrimp atop them.  Maybe I will post that recipe sometime in the future...mmmmm Shrimp & Grits.

Asiago Cheese Grits

2 1/2 cups milk (I use whole because well it's just better for these sorts of delicious things)
2 cups water (I love free ingredients) 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 1/3 cups stone-ground grits (white or yellow, doesn't matter - just NOT instant!)
3-4 Tablespoons butter
1/2-3/4 shredded asiago cheese (portion dependent on your love for all things cheese)

Combine milk, water and salt in a large saucepan.  Bring to boil over medium heat. Whisk in the grits slowly.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Now, this is important, grits love to stick to the bottom of your beloved saucepans so you need to tend to them.  Whisk or stir them about every 5 minutes (otherwise you'll be scrubbing the bottom of that pan after it has soaked in your sink and annoyed the crap out of you with its presence for about a week). After about 20-25 minutes, your grits should be nice and creamy.  

Add the butter and cheese. Stir until both are melted to perfection.  I like my grits a little more salty as well, so I typically add about another 1/2-1 teaspoon of salt (depending on the week, if you know what I mean) right about now. 

Top with whatever or just grab a big ol' wooden spoon and start shoving this stuff in your face. Yea, it's that good.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Maple Brown Sugar Granola

When I went gluten free for about a year, I discovered how ridiculously expensive this diet can be.  I mean, really? $5 to $8 for a 12oz bag of granola!  Don't get me wrong, I know that nuts and dried fruit aren't cheap by any means but come on! So I came up with my own granola recipe (a combination of about a dozen recipes I tried) that seemed more cost effective, tasted far more fresh and that I absolutely adore.

It's good with fresh fruit and yogurt, on top of vanilla ice cream or simply drowning in milk.

3 cups of rolled oats (Gluten-free, if preferred)
2 cups of nuts (slivered almonds, chopped pecans, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts or whatever you have on hand)
1 cup of shredded coconut (I use unsweetened shaved coconut, but either will do)
1/3 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2-1 teaspoon salt (I'm a salt fiend)
1-1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries or cherries. Or a combination!)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together oats, nuts, coconut and sugar.  Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together syrup, oil, cinnamon and salt. Coat oat mixture with syrup/oil mixture and toss to combine.   Pour onto one large baking sheet with sides or two smaller sheets in one layer.  Bake for 1-1 1/2 hours, tossing/stirring every 15 minutes until golden brown.

Cool and mix in dried fruit. Store in air tight container.

Make this recipe your own by adding seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, flax etc.) or other mix-ins.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Triple Cinnamon Scones

Over the past few years, my dad has developed an affinity for scones.  He's very picky about them though. He covets this blueberry version from a bakery in Terre Haute, Indiana and, until about a year ago, they were the only ones that he truly loved.  He doesn't like dry British type scone so I venture that he wouldn't much care for the actual Scotish griddle scone either.

So a couple of years ago, I attempted to make scones for the first time to see if they passed his obviously discriminating taste (this from a man who, in my mother's absence, will eat a bag of microwave popcorn for dinner). I figured if I made them chocolate with chocolate chips that they would surely be a hit and I was right.  I went to my favorite source for any bread creation, King Arthur Flour. (That link will take you directly to a classic scone recipe with a bunch of different variations including the chocolate chocolate chip madness)

Last Christmas, I decided to try making King Arthur's Triple Cinnamon Scones.  According to a bunch of research I've read cinnamon is a great metabolism booster, so I'm fairly certain with the amount of cinnamon that these scones contain you're actually loosing weight while you eat them.*

**Compliments of the fine people at King Arthur Flour**
1/2 cup half and half
1 cup cinnamon chips
2 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pats
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons water

3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
7 tablespoons water

Combine the cinnamon chips with the half and half or milk in a small bowl. Let the mixture rest for about 20 minutes. While the cinnamon mixture is resting, get started putting together the rest of the ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Work in the butter just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly; it's OK for some larger chunks of butter to remain unincorporated.
Add the eggs and vanilla to the cinnamon-milk mixture, stirring to combine. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all is moistened and holds together.

Scrape the dough onto a well-floured work surface. Pat/roll it into a rough 9" square, a scant 3/4" thick. Make sure the surface underneath the dough is very well floured. If necessary, use a giant spatula (or the biggest spatula you have) to lift the square, and sprinkle more flour underneath.

Spread the filling over the dough. Fold one edge into the center and over the filling, as though you were folding a letter. Fold the remaining edge over the center to complete the three-fold. You'll now have a rectangle that's stretched to about 4" x 12". Gently pat/roll it to lengthen it into a 3" x 18" rectangle; it'll be between 3/4" and 1" thick.

Cut the rectangle into six 3" squares. Transfer the squares to a lightly greased (or parchment-lined) baking sheet. Now you have a choice. For large scones, cut each square in half diagonally to make a triangle; you'll have 12 scones. For medium scones, cut each square in half diagonally again, making four triangular scones from each square. Gently separate the scones (if you like scones with crunchy edges), leaving about 1" between them. For softer scones, separate the scones just enough to break contact between them.

For best texture and highest rise, place the pan of scones in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered. While the scones are chilling, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Bake the scones for 16 to 20 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven, and allow the scones to cool right on the pan.  This is the hardest part as now your entire house smells of cinnamony goodness.

Make the glaze by stirring together the sugar, cinnamon, and water. If the sugar seems particularly lumpy, sift it first, for an extra-smooth glaze. Line a baking sheet (with sides) with parchment, and pour about half the glaze atop the parchment. Set the scones atop the glaze, swirling them around a bit to coat their bottoms. Then drizzle the remaining glaze over the top. Use a pastry brush to brush the glaze over each scone, to coat it entirely. The glaze is very thin, so this is easily done. Transfer the scones to a rack set over parchment, to catch any drips. As you pick each scone up, run its sides over the glaze in the bottom of the pan, both to use up some of the extra glaze, and to make sure all sides are coated. Allow the glaze to set before serving the scones.

*This is, of course, a false statement.  There's a stick of butter in this recipe. I'm pretty sure you could eat the entire jar of cinnamon and it won't counteract the fat content in that. 

Happy Birthday to the most important man, my hero, and my first love...my dad!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Eggs Galore!

So I remember when I went off to college, my mom telling me stories of when she and my father moved in together at Purdue.  She worked in some sort of chicken facility so she got to take home eggs all of the time.  Whenever they were low on funds, there were always plenty of eggs to be had.  Her go-to meal in a pinch is still fried egg sandwiches.

Now I can whip up a fried egg sandwich with the best of them, but somehow they never turn out as good as my mom's.  Doesn't that sound completely stupid? It's an egg, butter, a frying pan and some salt & pepper...so how does hers taste so much better than mine. Duh! Cause everything is better when your mother makes it for you.

So here's what I've been doing with eggs lately. (Oh and a little bit of leftover bacon from the Midwesterner's Bread.  I know, really?  I had leftover bacon? Totally unheard of! But it happened.)

Both of these recipes serve one hungry person.

Modified (GF) Egg in a Frame (aka Toad in a Hole and/or One-eyed Jack)

1 bell pepper, sliced in 1/2" rings
3-4 eggs
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Place bell pepper rings in hot oil and saute for approximately 2 minutes. Flip rings and break one egg into each. Season with salt & pepper. Cover until eggs are cooked until desired (I like mine over-easy or medium hard). Adorn with toppins! I choose bacon (I will always choose bacon!) and cheese. Serve hot, delicious and gluten free!

Italian Eggs of Nom

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced (or a 1/2 teaspoon of that jarred stuff you have in your fridge door)
1/4 of a small onion, diced
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, pureed
1/2  teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
salt & pepper, to taste
1/4 cup of parmesan
2-3 eggs (dependent on the volume of your stomach growl)

Heat olive oil over medium. Saute garlic and onions until translucent. Puree tomatoes with rosemary, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. (Feel free to use the fresh stuff, but I can't seem to use that stuff before it spoils in my fridge and I manage to kill all of the live plants I buy) Cook down until tomato sauce thickens. Stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle on the parmesan cheesey goodness. Break eggs atop the cheese. Cover and cook to desired. I like mine over-medium for this one. Serve hot with some oven 'fried' potatoes! (recipe follows)

Oven 'Fried' Potatoes (for one)

One potato (of any variety*), sliced 1/4-1/2"
Olive oil
Salt & pepper (or seasoned salt and pepper rather!!!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lay the potato slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on desired seasonings. Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes, turning once about halfway through.  Serve with some Sriracha cause that stuff is liquid crack to a potato!

*Try with sweet potatoes. Season with cumin and drizzle lime juice on them prior to serving! (Skip the Sriracha on this one though)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sweet and Sour Chicken

This is one of my favorite quick weeknight meals from Martha Stewart.  I can't stand her voice, but boy do I love her recipes.

I've made this as follows, but also made it with shrimp which is equally as delicious.  If you are using (uncooked, peeled and deveined) shrimp instead of chicken, make sure to add it when you add the scallions and garlic later in the recipe. 

Chuck pineapple is also a great addition to this recipe, if you are feeling crazy!

1 cup of rice (long grain brown, basmati, jasmine, whatever)
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup white vinegar
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1-1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed into 1-inch pieces
2 bell peppers, diced (orange & red pictured, but you can use any kind)
½ pound fresh green beans, trimmed & halfed
5 scallions, sliced thin
¼ teaspoon of ground ginger (more if ginger is your thing.  It’s not mine.  You can also use minced fresh ginger, if you’d like)
3 garlic cloves minced (or 1 ½ teaspoons of minced garlic)
¼ cup chopped peanuts, garnish

Cook rice according to package instructions. While the rice is cooking, whisk together cornstarch, sugar, soy sauce & vinegar. Set aside. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add chicken, bell peppers & green beans.  Stir frequently until veggies begin to soften (about 5 minutes). Add scallions, ginger, and garlic.  Stir frequently until chicken is cook through and veggies are tender (about 5 more minutes).  Add soy sauce mixture to skillet and toss to coat.  Stir constantly until sauce thickens. Remove from heat.  Serve over cooked rice and garnish with chopped peanuts (I roasted my peanuts in a saucepan over low heat until they were golden brown). 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Custard Toffee Freezer Pie

I love toffee, especially when it is laden with chocolate.  Come to think of it, I love anything laden in chocolate. Which makes me think that I should probably candy some bacon sometime soon and coat it in a thin layer of dark chocolate. Doesn't that just sound good?  And oh so healthy!?

Anyway I digress...(always sidetracked by bacon).  Ever since I was little I can remember my mother making these absolutely decadent eclairs. Messy, little, beautiful, plump puffs of pastry oozing with custard sporting a stylish ganache hat. Her eclairs were so popular in our hometown that people would hire her to prepare them for parties or events.  I loved watching my mom prepare these and remember thinking how lucky I was (and still am) to be privy to these wonderful little custards puffs so frequently and everyone else had to pay for them. MY mom made (and still does) the most popular dessert in town! And I got to lick the bowl, beaters and spatula clean whenever she did.

So I figure there must be at least a few hundred different uses for this pale yellow pudding whipped goodness, right?  So with that train of thought, I made a few modifications to her custard filling and turned it into a freezer pie...with TOFFEE!

As soon as I pulled this from the freezer at a party I served it at recently, it was promptly mauled to pieces and unfit for any sort of photo session. I'll have to add a picture of it the next time I make it, I guess.

I had so many people ask for this recipe, I am kind of embarrassed to admit how simple it is.

1 1/2 cups chocolate wafer/cookie crumbs
6 Tablespoons butter, melted

Mix together cookie crumbs and melted butter.  Press into a 8 inch pie plate and refrigerate until ready for use.

*If you don't feel like going to the trouble or your grocer doesn't carry chocolate wafers, just buy one of those premade dealies from the baking aisle.  They work just as well.

Custardy Insides:
1 1/2 cups whole milk, half & half or heavy cream (any of these work, let's be honest)
1 package (3.4oz) instant French Vanilla pudding mix
1 1/2 cups Heath chocolate/toffee chips (or you can buy 6 Heath Bars and pound the crap out of them until you've made your own chips)
1 (8oz) carton of Cool Whip, thawed

With a hand mixer, beat together milk and pudding mix until set (approximately 3 minutes).  Once pudding is thick, stir in 1 cup of the toffee chips.  Fold in approximately 2 cups of Cool Whip.  Transfer this custardy deliciousness into your prepared crust.  Top with the remaining Cool Whip and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of Heath chips.  Cover and freeze until firm (approximately 5 hours).

I think next time I make this I have might shove a piece into my blender with a little milk and turn in into a super thick milkshake. Ok, I need to stop now. I am obviously fraught with custard-soaked power.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Midwesterner's Bread (aka Cheddar, Bacon, Ranch Pull Apart Bread)

Due to an overwhelming number of requests on Facebook after I posted a picture of this nonsense, I had add the recipe on here.  To give credit where it is due, this recipe came from Plain Chicken (She has a bunch of other great recipes on her blog as well that you should probably check out).  However, due to my weird aversion to packaged foods, I made some modifications to make it my own.

I renamed it Midwesterner's Bread because of the Ranch dressing and bacon components.  Bacon, much like smiles, is the universal language of food.  But Ranch...well, if you've ever been to Indiana you know how much we Hoosiers covet our Ranch dressing.  We will dip anything in that delicious white condiment of the gods.  Fries, chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, potato chips...we don't care what the vehicle, we just want more!

1 unsliced loaf of sourdough bread
8-12 oz cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 lb of thick slab bacon, fried to crispy perfection
1/2 cup (yup, an entire stick!) butter
1 Tbsp Ranch dressing mix (you can use Hidden Valley powder, but I recommend making a trip to Penzey's or hitting them up online for some of theirs.  Here, I will make it easier for you:  Penzey's Buttermilk Ranch) 

Score the bread in both directions using a sharp bread knife while leaving the bottom intact. (read as: Don't cut it all the way through!) Shove cheese slices and tasty bacon in between cuts. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat and mix in ranch dressing powder. Evenly poor the buttery ranch goodness over the bacon & cheddar stuffed bread.  Place in a 8-9" cake pan (for a round loaf) or place on a baking sheet (for those elongated numbers) and wrap in aluminum foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.  Bask in this bread's glory for at least 5-10 minutes while it cools (or you'll, no doubt, burn your fingers and mouth) and then plunge face first into it*...yea, it's THAT good. 

 *Note: Don't really do this. You'll burn your face. Can't believe I had to point that out, but it seemed necessary. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Nutella Tart

I had never tried Nutella until a couple of months ago. I KNOW!!! I clearly had no idea what I was missing. Since my recent awakening to all that is this hazelnut chocolate spread, I have felt the need to spread to on various things (bread, pancakes, apples, my finger) and shove it into baked goods.  My first trial with Nutella was a Banana Nutella Swirl Bread.  This was unarguably a fan-favorite among my female friends.  No offense guys, but you just don't see to 'get' Nutella. It's like you are immune to its delicious charms.

In search of the perfect tart, I was forced to combine two of my favorite recipes into one glorious Nutella filled concoction.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup dutch process cocoa
1/2 healing cup of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
10 Tablespoons butter, cubed and at room temperature
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 cup Nutella
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (or instant espresso)

Whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, cream together butter, egg yolks and vanilla until fluffy. Combine butter mixture with dry ingredients.  Press dough into a 9" fluted tart pan, evenly distributing over bottom and sides.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prick crust all over with a fork and bake for approximately 15 or until cooked through.  Cool on wire rack.

Whisk together 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch and 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Set aside.  In a small saucepan, combine remaining inerd ingredients and whisk in cornstarch mixture. Heat to a slow boil over low heat. Whisking frequently.  As the mixture begins to thicken, remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.

Top crust with inerds and bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes.  Cool on wire rack for at least 30 minutes (if you can stand it that long).  Sprinkle with hazelnuts. And face plant into it with wreckless abandon!

I chilled my tart overnight to serve at a party the following day.  I sprinkled it with hazelnuts and pressed them into the inerds with wax paper and served it at room temperature.  Still delicious!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Super Easy Cheeseburger Soup

There's something about fall and winter in Indiana that just makes me want to make soups, stews and chili.  It's likely the same thing that has curled up on the couch on Saturday mornings during these seasons with my hands wrapped around a hot coffee mug...it's freezing out! 

I try to steer clear of cream laden soups, for obvious reasons, but a little bit of cheese never hurt anyone (well except those that are lactose intolerant, in which case just make hamburger soup).

1 pound ground beef (or turkey)
1 medium onion, diced
4 cups water
1 cup celery, diced
1 large potato, diced
4 carrots, sliced
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
½ teaspoon basil
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 can of crushed or diced tomatoes
½ cup quick cook barley, prepared
Shredded Cheese of choice

Brown beef in stock pot. Add diced onion and cook until onion is translucent. Add celery, potatoes and carrots.  Add pepper, basil thyme and bay leaf and toss to combine.  Cover with water and bring to a boil. Stir in tomatoes (including the juice).  Lower heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add cook barley and heat through. Approximately 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Top with cheese and serve with a crust loaf of bread or a side of fries.  

Friday, January 20, 2012

Slow-Cooked Pork Carnitas with Fresh Corn Salsa

I just adore my slow cooker.  Not only does it ease cooking and preparation, but this method of cooking does absolutely incredible things to tenderize meats and meld flavors during its methodically lazy cooking process. 

Now the corn salsa is obviously best fixed when corn is in season, but canned or frozen corn can also be substituted.  Being a Hoosier for the better part of my life, corn has become a staple for me in the summer months. I’m fairly certain that there is no better vegetable than corn on cob that’s just been plucked from its stalk a couple hours before you put it on the dinner table.

2-2 1/2lb pork shoulder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 large onion, cut into 4 pieces
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 avocado
Fresh cilantro (optional – I don’t care for cilantro)

Place pork in slow cooker and season with salt, black pepper, and dried oregano making sure to coat well. Place onion atop pork. Set slow cooker to low and cook approximately 6-7- hours or until meat is very tender and falling apart.  I like to add the cinnamon in about the time the pork starts to fall apart or an hour before it is completely done.  You can also add it in and toss to coat at the end of cooking.

Serve on corn tortillas with avocado, fresh cilantro and fresh corn salsa (see recipe below).

Fresh Corn Salsa

5-6 ears fresh sweet corn (boiled, cut from cob and cooled)
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 medium tomato, diced 
1/2 red or green pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and diced (optional – if you’re feeling spicy)
2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Toss to combine corn, onion, pepper and tomato.  If you are using jalapeno and cilantro, add it now as well.  In a separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper.  Coat corn mixture will olive oil mixture and toss gently to coat well.  Refrigerate for 2-3 hours prior to serving to allow flavors to mix.