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!

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.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Candied Bacon

I am a firm believer that there are few foods more perfect than bacon. So when I found a way to not only easy the cooking process, but make bacon even tastier...well, to say the least, I was ecstatic! 

All you need is some thick cut bacon and some brown sugar! 2-ingredient recipe? With bacon?  It's ok to profess your love for me out loud right now.  I won't judge.

Be on the lookout! …Because I’m going to be employing candied bacon in a variety of ways soon. I’m thinking Candied Bacon & Chocolate Chip cookies and possibly Candied Bacon & Maple Syrup Ice Cream. Yup, that’s happening. I’m sick with bacon power, I know!

1 pound thick bacon
1/2 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350º F. Lay bacon (in all of its bacony glory!) in a single lay on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the bacon. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until it reaches the desired level of crispiness. I’d let it cool for a minute before you start stuffing your face with it.  Boom! That’s it. You’re done.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Coconut Rice Pudding

It took me awhile, but I finally developed a taste for rice pudding.  I’d tried at least a half a dozen prepackaged concoctions and box mixes totting the name ‘rice pudding,’ but they were all terrible.  So finally I found one that I truly love.

4 cups whole milk
1 cup arborio rice (about 8 ounces)
½-3/4 cup sugar (I like mine sweeter!)
One 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup coarsely shredded unsweetened coconut

In a large saucepan, combine the milk, rice and sugar with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and suspended in a thick, creamy sauce, about 30 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rice is very tender and the liquid is thickened, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly.
In a medium saucepan, toast the coconut over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and golden, about 4 minutes.
Serve with rice pudding adorned with toasted coconut. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Coconut Curried Shrimp Salad

So I've been on a 'Whole Foods' Cleanse the past two weeks. Not to be confused with the grocery store chain, Whole Foods.  Week 1 consisted of nothing but fruits, veggies and the occasional handful of nuts.  I'm here to tell  you that you have no idea how important meat is until you try and give it up. While my co-cleansers were craving wine and sweets, all I wanted for was a filet, some beef tartare or a slab of bacon.  

Week 2, we got to add back fish and lentils. (Yes, lentils.) So having never prepared fish outside of the occasional shrimp kabob, I've started experimenting with different flavors. So far I've taught myself how to bake a perfect tilapia filet (I can thank my cast iron skillet for that) and then got all crazy on some shrimp.  Oddly enough, I don't suck at it! 

Next week, I get my grains back! Bring on the oats & rice!

1 lb uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Tablespoon mild curry paste
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup unsweetened shaved coconut
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
6 ounces washed baby spinach
2 clementines (or 1 small can of mandarin oranges drained)

For dressing whisk together the following and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble salad for serving:
1/3 cup olive oil
juice from half of a lemon
salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil and curry paste in skillet. Saute shrimp until pink. Turning once (approximately 2-3 minutes per side). Remove from pan. Cool and refrigerate for approximately 2 hours or until chilled.

Toast almonds and coconut in a saucepan over low-medium heat until golden brown. Toss with ginger.

Combine spinach with toasted almond/coconut mixture and toss with dressing.  Top with clementines and shrimp.  Serve chilled.

Dark Chocolate Brownies (GF)

Unwitting friends and family have told me that these are the best brownies they've ever had  before I tell them that they are gluten free.  Even after I tell them, they still stand by their original opinion.  

A big fan of the slighty-undercooked brownie myself, I would have to agree that the dark chocolate coupled with the gooeyiness of these brownies makes me swoon. Top with some homemade vanilla bean ice cream and seasonal berries and prepare for a foodgasm. 

Huge thanks to the Gluten Free Goddess for this one.  I have yet to make any of her recipes that turned out poorly. http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/

5 ounces dark chocolate
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugarDescription: http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=recipfromaglu-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B001EO5Q64&camp=217145&creative=399369
1/2 cup almond meal (I just magic bullet almonds to a fine powder. Works great!)
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon GF vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (Optional) 
1/2 whatever kind of chips* for the top (Optional)


Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line an 8x8-inch square baking pan with foil and lightly oil the bottom.

Melt the dark chocolate and coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat, gently stirring.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the brown sugar, almond meal, brown rice flour, sea salt and baking soda. Make a well in the center and add the beaten eggs, vanilla extract and melted dark chocolate mixture. Beat on low-medium for two minutes, until the batter begins to come together. At first it will seem thin, like cake batter, but keep beating until it thickens and becomes smooth and glossy.

If you are adding nuts, stir in the nuts by hand and spread the batter into the prepared baking pan. Even out the batter with a spatula.

*Press some semi-sweet or dark or white or whatever chips into the top of this bad boy!

Bake in the center of a preheated 350 degree F oven for 32 to 35 minutes, or until the brownies are set. The top will crack, like a flourless chocolate cake.

Cool on a wire rack; and remove the cooled brownies from the pan by gripping the foil edges and lifting the brownies out as a whole. Cool for an hour before cutting. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Banana Nutella Swirl Bread

So up until September 2011, I'd been striving for a gluten free diet for just over a year.  I'm not allergic, celiac or gluten intolerant. I know? Why would I torture myself like this then, right? I, simply, felt better and had more energy without the little evil glutens in my life.  More on that later, for now all you need to know is that I gave myself a break this year.  A three month break and went on a crazy gluten-filled binge of sorts!!! So the entire last quarter of 2011, I was shoving any type of bread or beer I could find or create right in my pie hole.  MMMMM, PIE!!! 

This moist delicious quick bread was one of the most requested recipes that I have posted lately so I figured that it would be a great one for my inaugural post!


Nutella Swirl Banana Bread
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups mashed very ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup plain low fat yogurt, low fat sour cream or buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour, or half all-purpose and half whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup Nutella

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9″x5″ loaf pan with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until well combined – the mixture will have the consistency of wet sand. Add the banana, eggs, yogurt and vanilla and beat until well blended. Don’t worry about getting all the lumps of banana out.

Add the flour, baking soda and salt and gently stir with a spatula just until combined. If you are feeling crazy, throw 1/4-1/3c. of walnuts or pecans in the batter right about now before its is completely blended.

Pour about half the batter into your prepared pan, top with spoonfuls of Nutella, spreading it gently over the batter (don’t worry about getting it even), and top with the remaining batter. Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, until the top is cracked and springy to the touch. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.