Celebrating the new year calls for foods that are believed to bring good luck. In the Hoosier State, many of us go with cabbage. In my family that is certainly the case. But I remember as a child turning my nose up at any form of cabbage–raw, as in coleslaw, fermented in sauerkraut, or cooked in any form. My mom would force a bite down me on New Year’s Day, and I demanded the same of my kids. Today our daughter loves cabbage, in all forms. Our son, I think I can say, is less put off by it than he used to be. But it is not at the top of his New Year’s Day menu.
To keep peace with all generations and still bring good luck to all, I find soup to be the friendliest mode of cabbage consumption. And below is a beef vegetable soup that my mother shared with me many years ago. It’s ready in about an hour, using simple ingredients and simple techniques to bring out an abundance of flavor. Hear my step by step demo HERE.
A great thing about soups is you can adjust flavors and seasonings as you like. One option for this, or any soup that calls for canned diced tomatoes, is to use seasoned diced tomatoes. All the tomato packers make versions with herbs, spices, and additional ingredients, like basil/oregano/garlic, or with added peppers & chilis. Feel free to branch out and use those to give your soup your own spin.
Happy New Year!
Susan’s Mom’s Vegetable Beef Soup
(About 6 servings)
1 lb ground beef
Chopped onion & celery (about 1/2 cup of each, or more if preferred)
Chopped carrots (2-3, depending on size)
Chopped cabbage (about 1/3 head)
1 15-oz can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 15-oz cans diced tomatoes
1 32-oz carton beef broth plus 1 cup water
Basil & oregano, dried, 1/2 tsp each, or more, to taste
1 bay leaf
Salt & pepper to taste (generous amount of pepper is advised; taste before adding salt)
Brown ground beef in large stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions, celery, carrots as you get them chopped. Allow meat to cook undisturbed for several minutes so it sears and sticks to the pan somewhat. Be careful not to burn! Drain fat from mixture. Add about a cup of broth to pot and let it begin to cook and loosen the bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Scrap those up into to liquid. Put meat, vegetables, and all remaining ingredients in the pot and bring it up to a simmer. Allow to simmer about an hour. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! It’s a mad rush getting everything ready for family celebrations. I want to share/re-post this recipe for Cranberry Noels. They are a shortbread cookie dotted with dried cranberries and pecans and outlined in coconut. It’s an easy recipe–just mix up ahead of time and store the log-rolled dough in the fridge until you are ready to bake. The dough needs at least 2 hours in the fridge. I leave it in over night. To bake, you simply slice into rounds and place on a cookie sheet.
I clipped this recipe from Martha Stewart Living Magazine around 15 years ago. I made a couple of modifications. One is to add orange zest. The other is to toast the pecans before adding to the dough.
I can’t stress enough how toasting nuts, any nuts, before use in baking or cooking makes them so much more flavorful and nutty. Not to mention crisper. Just better all around! I toast a whole bag of nuts on a sheet pan at 325º for about 10 minutes. Just until they become fragrant and have taken on a bit of color. Take them out and let them cool completely, and store in a zip top bag. When you want toasted nuts for a salad, cookies, cake, or whatever, you have them at hand.
Note: I do not toast peanuts. They are fine when purchased as “roasted peanuts.” It’s the tree nuts–pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, and the like–that benefit from toasting.
May all the blessings of Christmas and the holiday season be yours!
Makes about 4 dozen
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 T milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp of orange zest
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans*
3/4 cup shredded coconut
Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add milk, vanilla, salt, and orange zest. Beat until just combined. Gradually add flour, cranberries, and pecans. Mix on low speed until fully combined.
Divide dough in half. Shape each half into 8-inch logs, about 2 inches diameter. Roll each log in coconut and then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.
When ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 375º. Using a sharp straight knife (not serrated), cut cold logs into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until edges are golden. Transfer cookies to rack to cool.
*Toasting brings out the nutty flavor of pecans. Toast them whole ahead of time on a baking sheet or pan, at 350º for 8-10 minutes. I put them in a cold oven and let them begin toasting as the oven heats up. Check after 8 minutes. They’ll darken just a bit and become fragrant. Don’t over-bake. Allow to cool then chop fine for this recipe. (Tip: toast a whole bag of pecan halves at once and you’ll have a ready supply for baking, salads, etc.)
The calendar tells us summer is not over yet, but practically speaking, we are getting into the autumn mindset, with school back in session, football season underway, leaves beginning to fall, and the sweet corn season at an end. In my part of the state we had an abundance of delicious fresh sweet corn, despite the difficult growing season that gave farmers of all crops a few more gray hairs.
Each Labor Day Weekend the town of Hoopeston, Illinois, hosts the National Sweet Corn Festival. This year was the 76th annual festival. When my husband and I heard they gave away freshly cooked sweet corn we thought it would be worth our while to make the short drive across the state line to check it out. On the latest edition of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast, you can hear what it was all about as I got a behind the scenes tour of the shucking, boiling, and buttering process. The Chairman of the Corn, P.J. Clingenpeel was my enthusiastic guide.
Also on the episode is my visit to Red Gold Tomatoes–the corporate headquarters and processing facility in Elwood, Indiana. Did you know Indiana is the third largest tomato growing state in the nation? It’s a distant third, after California and Florida, but we’re a major producer of tomatoes for processing and Red Gold is one of the biggest processors in the country.
For recipes and more information on Red Gold and their products, visit redgoldtomatoes.com. To learn more about the National Sweet Corn Festival, go to Hoopeston Jaycees. Thanks to Steve Smith and Julie Clarkson at Red Gold, and P.J. Clingenpeel at the Sweet Corn Festival.
If you haven’t made it to the Indiana State Fair yet this year, there is still time. By the time this posts, there will be five big days yet to go (it ends August 18).
Hear about my visit to the fair on the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast, HERE.
And if you miss out this year, you can rest assured that each summer brings a new opportunity to take in the fair and all its attractions–the 4-H competitions, music performances, agricultural displays and equipment, the Pioneer Village, the circus, the midway, the food….
Yes, it’s the food that is the main attraction for many fair-goers. Barbecued turkey legs, pork burgers, pork chops, beef rib-eyes, deep-fried pork tenderloin, deep fried (fill-in-the-blank), elephant ears, funnel cakes, ice cream, sweet corn, gyros, kabobs, and on and on… A page on the Indiana State Fair website features all the “new foods” at this year’s fair!
I always try to have an elephant ear at the fair. For those unfamiliar with this staple of the midway (anyone?), it’s a flat disc of yeast dough stretched like a pizza crust, deep fried and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. I missed out this year due to extenuating circumstances. I spent the day judging a barbecue cook-off and thus had no appetite for an elephant ear. Well, it’s something to look forward to next year.
Speaking of the barbecue cook-off, it’s put on at the State Fair every year by Shoup’s Country Foods. This year was the 10th annual competition. Congratulations to the overall champion team Gettin’ Piggy With It! See more on the Shoup’s Country Facebook page.
At this year’s fair, I made a point to spend some time in the Pioneer Village and learn a little about some of the old time cooking techniques. You can hear more about it on the new IHC Podcast episode here. Ever had cracklins? You’ll hear where they come from, plus other pioneer cooking tips and techniques in this episode.
I also met Jeanette Merritt of Indiana Pork, who shared a Tuscan Pork & Bean Salad during a cooking demonstration at the fair. She offered more pork cooking ideas on the podcast episode as well. Jeannette’s salad recipe is below, and more pork recipes are available at the Indiana Pork website.
A note about the man pictured below with no arms and tending the fire. He’s Jeffrey Scott and he’s volunteered at the State Fair Pioneer Village for most of his life. At a very young age he lost his arms in a tragic farm accident. But that didn’t slow him down. He was given the job of stirring the rendering pot when he was a young boy. And he can stir, even with no arms! He also is an accomplished wood crafter and carver.
Sharon Ann Wertman & Ann Troyer, pioneer cooks
Cracklins at a rolling boil in rendered lard
David Cline & Jeffrey Scott
Joe Scott (left) and his crew slicing the pork fat
6 oz boneless pork loin, cooked, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
10 oz greens (Romaine, spinach, mixture)
15 oz cannellini beans (or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained)
2 tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup green onions, sliced
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
In a shallow serving bowl toss together all ingredients, except parmesan cheese, with dressing. Portion onto individual serving plates and top each with 1 T parmesan cheese. Makes 4 dinner-sized salad servings.
Professor Torbert Rocheford decided he wanted to help the world. Specifically, to help the poor in Africa improve their diets, and thus their nutrition, in order to save lives. That’s what started him on his mission to develop orange corn. The orange color comes from higher levels of carotenoids, like beta-carotene, which the body converts to Vitamin A, which is lacking in the diets of many developing countries.
It’s not sweet corn, like what we eat right off the cob, that we are talking about. It’s field corn or “dent” corn, that grows on millions of acres here in Indiana and throughout the country. It is the corn that is processed into countless products like corn oil, cornflakes and other cereals, tortilla chips and other snack foods, corn syrup, feed for livestock, corn meal, and grits, to name just a few.
In its most basic milled form, as corn meal and grits (sometimes called polenta), it is a staple in the diets of many people in developing countries. Often eaten three times a day. So improving the nutritional value of such a crop can dramatically improve people’s health in these countries. And that is exactly what has happened in many countries of Africa where Dr. Rocheford’s orange corn has been adopted.
Dr. Torbert Rocheford holds the Patterson Endowed Chair in Purdue University’s Department of Agronomy. On the new episode of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast, he discusses his work in breeding orange corn and how that lead to the marketing of Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits here in the U.S. That product is becoming a favorite of chefs and home cooks not only for its nutritional boost, but especially for its creamy corn flavor, and unique orange hue. And the orange corn for the grits is grown and processed here in the Hoosier State. Read more about the grits and the orange corn story here.
Helping him with Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits are his son, and co-founder, Evan Rocheford, and Torbert’s wife Katie, who has come up with some interesting uses for Orange Corn Grits. We hear from both of them in the episode as well. Listen here.
Thanks to all three Rochefords for allowing me to share the story of Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits. It’s an important story of reaching out with a helping hand to those in need across the world, from right here in our Indiana Home.
Photo of Torbert & Evan by Rachel Sale.
Microwave Orange Corn Grits for One
1/3 cup Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits
1 1/3 cup water
Pinch of salt
1 tsp butter
Place all ingredients in a microwave safe cooking dish (about 6 cup capacity). Stir lightly, cover and cook in the microwave on high for 5-6 minutes depending on your microwave’s power. After cooking is complete, leave it covered and let it sit 2 minutes. Then stir thoroughly and serve. Extra butter, salt/pepper, milk or cream, etc. may be added as desired.
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 T lemon zest
2 T fresh lemon juice
Adjust oven rack to upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together polenta (or grits), flour, and salt, and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together sugar and butter till light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla . Add dry ingredients and beat until just incorporated. Stir in lemon juice and zest.
Drop dough by heaping tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly golden, about 18 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on sheet, then transfer cookies to wire rack to finish cooling.
Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits & Lemon Biscotti
by Katie Rocheford
3/4 cup Orange Corn Grits
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3 T lemon zest
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
Egg wash (one egg beaten with 1T water or half & half)
Sugar for sprinkling
Prepare grits: Grind grits in a blender until consistency of corn meal. Stir lemon juice and zest into grits and let sit 15 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350ºF.
Combine flour, salt, and soda in a medium bowl. Whisk together and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together thoroughly. Add eggs and beat well. Add grits mixture and mix well.
Stir flour mixture into butter mixture by hand until just mixed. Shape and roll dough into 2 logs about 12″ long and 3″ to 4″ wide. (If dough is sticky, flour your hands and sprinkle flour on countertop for easier handling. Or dough can be refrigerated until firm enough to handle.)
Transfer logs to prepared baking sheet, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 350º about 30 minutes or until top is cracked and logs are a bit brown. Remove from oven and cool for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 280ºF.
After logs have cooled for 20 min, cut them diagonally into 1/2″ slices (biscotti). Place biscotti back on baking sheet and bake at 280º for 30 minutes. Option: bake biscotti on cooling rack place on baking sheet so as to dry both sides of biscotti. When biscotti feel dry, turn off oven and leave biscotti in oven until cool.
Pesto Shrimp and Grits
1 cup Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits, cooked according to package directions (yields 4 cups cooked grits)
24-32 peeled raw shrimp (more or less, depending on size)
Pesto sauce, divided (homemade or store-bought)
1 cup fresh diced tomato (optional)
Measure out 2-3 T. pesto sauce and thin it with a bit of olive oil so it can be easily brushed onto shrimp. Keep this portion separate from the rest of the pesto, since it, and the utensils used, will be in contact with raw shrimp.
Skewer shrimp for grilling. Lightly salt and pepper shrimp, then brush with the thinned pesto sauce. Drizzle with additional olive oil, then cover and refrigerate while cooking grits and preparing grill.
While grits are cooking, preheat grill to medium-high heat (about 400ºF). When grits are done cooking, keep covered on the lowest heat setting to keep warm. (When ready to serve, if grits have become too stiff, simply add a bit of water or milk and stir to loosen up.)
When grill is ready, place skewered shrimp on grill over direct heat. Cook about 3 minutes, then turn over. After 5-6 minutes shrimp should be done. They will be pink and slightly firm to the touch. Do not overcook. Remove from grill.
To serve, spoon a generous bed of grits into individual serving bowls. Top each with 6-8 shrimp and a small dollop of pesto sauce, a few tomatoes, and a good drizzle of olive oil. Serves 4-6.
I’m gathering material for a couple of upcoming episodes of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast, and I hope you’ll check them out when they are posted. I have some other tasks to complete in the next week, and after that I’ll be in the studio editing and producing like mad to get them ready. I’m working on episodes featuring Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits, based in West Lafayette, and Shoup’s Country Foods in Frankfort.
Shoup’s Country Foods sponsor the Backyard BBQ Cook-Off at the Indiana State Fair each year. The fair is coming up soon, August 2-18, and the cook-off is Saturday, August 10. Catagories include pork ribs, pork loin, chicken, “Build a Hog Burger,” and more. If you are a backyard barbecuer, consider entering! You’ll find all the details HERE. The deadline to enter is July 26, or until space fills up.
(I just found out I’ll be a judge for the BBQ Cook-Off! So sign up or come by and see it all take place August 10 at the Indiana State Fair.)
The Shoup family of Frankfort, Indiana, started in the custom meat processing business decades ago. Over the years they have expanded into a retail meat store, mail order, and catering business. Catering has lead them to open their own event center and to involvement with the biggest catered tailgate party anywhere–the Super Bowl. Their story will be featured on an upcoming episode of the IHC Podcast.
On my blog and on social media you may have seen pictures of Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits. I’ve cooked them several times and liked the results so much I couldn’t help sharing! I met Professor Torbert Rocheford and his son Evan recently and I’ll be sharing their story about how the grits came to be, and where in the world orange corn comes from. (Hint: Professor Torbert invented it.)
Look for these stories and more here on the blog and on the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast. You can always catch up on your listening by clicking on the episodes listed here on the blog. Or go to indianahomecooks.podbean.com, Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Stitcher, Google, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Subscribe, download, and take IHC on your summer travels. That’s a great time to listen. And thanks!
In the midst of summer as we are, our gardens are catching up after the wet and cool start of the growing season. It will be awhile before my tomatoes are ready so they will get lots of tender loving care in the weeks ahead. But my tiny herb garden is thriving, and my basil is the best I’ve ever grown.
Naturally, I feel pressure to utilize these fragrant, glossy, emerald leaves as soon as possible, and as often as possible. The standard suggestion is “Make pesto!” And I have done that in years past. I like pesto, but I realize I’ve never been ga-ga about it like many folks are. In fact, when I make a large batch and freeze or refrigerate it for later use, I just ignore it. I never use it up.
As I watered the flowers and vegetables this morning, I knew I had to use some of that beautiful basil today, so pesto it would be. But only a small batch to go with pasta and a couple chicken thighs I had pulled from the freezer. They would be delicious grilled, skin-on. I did de-bone them, just to open them up and maybe speed the cooking a bit, and learned it’s not easy to remove the bone from a chicken thigh. If I do it again, I’ll study up on it beforehand.
The pesto recipe I use is from my old stand-by, The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, circa late 1980’s. I had not heard of pesto in the 1980’s. But the BHGC was on the cutting edge of trendiness, I suppose. Although pesto has been made in Italy for centuries, it didn’t catch on here in the states until the 1980’s. BHGC was all over that one.
I titled this blogpost “Pesto Love Affair” and then proceeded to explain I’ve never been crazy about pesto. And until today, I wasn’t. But putting the ingredients in the food processor, starting with the cubed parmesan cheese and processing to a nice granular consistency, then adding the walnuts, garlic cloves, basil leaves–barely 2 cups, eyeballing it–processing it into that luscious consistency, then drizzling in the olive oil, it came together magically. I didn’t season with salt and pepper until I tasted it. Then a generous grind of pepper and just a pinch of salt and another teaspoon of olive oil and…whizzzzz…whizzzzz…it was done and delicious, and I was falling in love.
My husband and son both agreed it was the best pesto I’d ever made. What else would they say? But it was true. The best ever. And I’m not sure why. To me pesto is usually a bit over the top, too much of something, but I don’t know what. It’s a concoction of several strong-flavored ingredients. Perfumey basil, sharp parmesan, and pungent garlic each deliver a heavy blow, and add in the traditional pine nuts and it’s flavor overload in my opinion. Perhaps replacing the “piney-ness” of the pine nuts with the mellow nuttiness of walnuts helps balance the other ingredients.
Or maybe it was just the right day to make pesto, from my own home-grown basil, at the peak of its hypnotic aromatic powers. Cooking with the seasons brings the utmost flavor and satisfaction to the table.
So I’ll stick with the BHGC for pesto, and keep it fresh and spontaneous. And maybe my love for pesto will endure.
The Indiana Home Cooks Podcast has been on a short hiatus. I’m working on several show ideas for the remaining weeks of summer. If you have a topic or a person you’d like to hear more about on the podcast, drop me a line. You can contact me by clicking “Contact” at the top of the screen or on the website menu. I would love to hear from you!
And thank you to all who have signed up to receive this blog via email. I’m pleased you are interested in Indiana Home Cooks, and honored to be an occasional guest in your inbox.
You can catch up on past episodes of the IHC Podcast directly from this blog, or on your favorite podcast app–Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher, Google, Spotify, etc. On any of those apps, simply search for “Indiana Home Cooks” and all the episodes will be right there at your fingertips. Thank you for listening, and for reading this far. The pesto recipe is below.
Fresh Basil Pesto
Adapted from The Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook
Parmesan cheese, block (or 1/2 cup grated)*
1/2 cup toasted (and cooled) walnuts, rough chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
2 cups fresh basil leaves, sort of firmly packed, but don’t go crazy
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
*You can buy grated parmesan cheese, but the kind in the shaker can is not recommended. Fresh grated is available in tubs in the “fancy cheese” section of the grocery. If you use block parm cheese, then follow the steps below…
Cut the block parm cheese into half-inch size cubes, up to about 1/2 to 2/3 cup, cubed. Put the cubes into the food processor bowl, close the lid and process until the consistency of very coarse cornmeal. You should end up with about 1/2 cup grated cheese.
To the grated cheese add walnuts, garlic, and basil leaves. Process this mixture until well combined. Next, drizzle in the olive oil while processing the mixture until everything comes together. Stop processing and taste for seasoning. Add salt/pepper as desired and process again for a few seconds. Add more olive oil or a bit of water if pesto seems too stiff. But don’t over process the mixture.
Use immediately or store in the fridge in a glass jar covered with a layer of olive oil, or in a plastic container or dish covered with plastic wrap directly in contact with the pesto. Both these storing methods will keep the pesto bright green. Use within one week. It may also be frozen in portion sizes if desired. Makes about 3/4 cup.
For this dish simply stir pesto (the amount is up to you) into hot cooked spaghetti, along with a bit of pasta cooking water to create a thin sauce to coat the noodles. Top with fresh diced tomatoes, sliced chicken, and a dollop of pesto. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.