The arrival of grilling season always inspires new ideas for outdoor cooking, whether on a gas or charcoal grill, or in a smoker. Since purchasing a Big Green Egg combination grill/smoker a couple years ago, I’ve been working on my BBQ game, improving in consistency, but also identifying what I still don’t understand. And if you are like me, and most backyard barbecuers, you might only fire up your smoker on the weekend, so you don’t get the repetition needed to really master a cooking technique. It does help to take notes, so you can remember what worked or didn’t work the last time!
I started following the Sandy Beach Barbecue Company on Instagram over a year ago and was impressed with the images of their food cooked on the Big Green Egg. They have a lot of fun doing demonstrations at their Big Green Egg dealership on the shore of Lake Freeman just south of Monticello, Indiana. As the weather slowly, and laboriously, warmed up this spring, I decided to call Michelle and Andy Schwindler, owners of Sandy Beach, and ask if they would show me their set up and be my guest on the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast. They enthusiastically agreed!
When I arrived, Andy had two of the Eggs fired up, one filled with chicken and cauliflower roasting in the smoky heat, and the other in preparation for an appetizer of melted brie, blueberries, and pecans. Was I in for a treat! Andy and Michelle could not have been kinder and more hospitable with their time, knowledge, and food.
See the pictures from my visit below and see more from the Sandy Beach Barbecue Company on Instagram and Facebook and at their website. They have a full slate of live fire dinners featuring low and slow BBQ, wood-fired pizza, surf & turf, and other options.
Full disclosure: I did not purchase my Big Green Egg from Sandy Beach. But I wish I had, as you will hear at the end of the podcast. Happy grilling, smoking, and BBQ’ing!
On the new Indiana Home Cooks podcast episode, we talk about all the food shown here and how it was cooked. Top to bottom: Andy at the Egg; whole chicken, drumstick lollipops, & cauliflower steaks; breaking down the chicken; melted brie with blueberries and pecans; lunch!
I enjoy playing around with different flavors in traditional recipes and giving them a fresh spin. For instance, from-scratch chicken noodle soup can be brightened up with the addition of fresh ginger, lime, and cilantro, and maybe a dash of fresh diced jalapeño or other hot pepper for a slight kick.
One day a few years ago I was preparing pot roast ingredients to load into the Crock Pot, when it dawned on me that I could take this standard family fare in another direction. Instead of the usual pot roast seasoning of salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, etc., and onions, carrots, and potatoes with gravy, what about an Italian twist? Instead of the carrots and potatoes, how about diced tomatoes and red bell pepper, along with the onions, and thyme, oregano, basil, and parsley for seasoning? Oh, and a splash of red wine couldn’t hurt. When the roast is cooked to fork-tenderness, pull it apart in chunks, and serve it over creamy polenta with a drizzle of olive oil, some chopped fresh parsley, and, of course, grated Parmesan cheese.
The whole scenario ran through my mind in an instant. So I followed my inspiration, and my Italian Pot Roast turned out fabulous!
Part of my thought process involved how I could use polenta. I had known about this creamy cornmeal dish for some time, seeing it on TV cooking shows, in magazines, and elsewhere. Along with pasta, it is a staple of Italian cuisine. To us Hoosiers, it’s known as grits.
I thought I should be authentic and use “polenta” so I found a quick-cooking Italian polenta that I used the first few times I made it. It was perfect with the Italian Pot Roast, serving as a creamy bed on which to ladle the tender beef chunks and sauce. But lately, when I make polenta, I pull out the Quaker Yellow Corn Meal and cook it according to the directions for Corn Meal Mush on the box. I add a little butter, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, and maybe a splash of milk to keep it creamy. It’s delicious and comforting.
A recent discovery I’ve made is another grits product that makes a fine polenta–Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits. It’s a bit pricey, but delicious, and the orange corn is a brighter color on the plate if you are serving it with the Italian Pot Roast or Shrimp & Grits. Professor Torbert is a real professor of agronomy at Purdue University, who developed a special line of corn that is higher in beta-carotene, giving it a more orange hue. He has turned his orange corn into a specialty food product. I hope to share his story on a future episode of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast.
In the meantime, give the Italian Pot Roast a try. You can cook it in your slow cooker, roasting pan or Dutch oven. All three methods are explained below, and you can hear me cooking it here. Enjoy!
Italian Pot Roast (Serves 4-6)
One 2 to 2.5 lb. chuck roast
One medium to large onion, roughly chopped
One bell pepper, any color, roughly chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup beef broth*
1/2 cup red wine*
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
Italian flat-leaf parsley, one handful chopped fresh, or 1 tsp dried
1 T sugar
Kosher salt & pepper
Grated parmesan cheese
Cooked polenta (directions below) or bite-size pasta, such as ziti
If cooking in a slow cooker (Crock Pot), reduce amount of wine/broth by half. Use a 1/2-cup of EITHER broth or wine, or reduce to 1/4-cup each.
Slow cooker instructions:
Put roast, veggies, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, broth/wine, herbs, sugar, and salt & pepper to taste in cooker. Cook on low for 10-12 hours. Or cook on high for 5-6 hours.
For conventional oven, preheat to 325º. Combine all ingredients in a large roasting pan as instructed for slow cooker above. Cover pan with foil or a lid, and bake 2.5 to 3 hours, till fork tender. When done, remove from oven, and let sit, covered, up to 30 minutes.
Conventional oven, plus extra flavor step for braising:
Season roast on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat an oven safe pot, like a dutch oven, on the stove on medium setting. Drizzle about 1 T. olive oil in hot pan and place roast in to sear. About 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove roast from pot and set aside.
Lower heat to med-low and pour in broth and wine. Allow it to boil and scrape up bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot, 2-3 minutes. Carefully add roast back to the pot, season with thyme, oregano, and basil. Add onions, peppers, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, and sugar.
Cover pot and place in preheated oven, and allow to braise for 2.5 to 3 hours, till fork tender. When done, remove from oven and let the roast sit, covered, for up to 30 minutes.
To serve, pull roast apart into chunks and stir it into the sauce. Ladle over cooked polenta or pasta in bowls, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with parsley and parmesan cheese. Makes great leftovers.
To make polenta:
You don’t have to buy “polenta.” Use Quaker Yellow Corn Meal and follow the instructions for cooking “Corn Meal Mush” on the box. When it has finished cooking and is thick and creamy it is ready to serve. If it thickens up too much before you are ready to serve, add a bit of milk and whisk. It’s also tasty to stir in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and 1/3 to 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese.
For over a year I’ve wanted to feature Sweet Revolution Bake Shop on the Indiana Home Cooks podcast. And it was worth the wait to interview co-owners Sarah McGregor-Raye and Jonathan McGregor. Hear the Sweet Revolution episode RIGHT HERE.
In the nearly two years this sister and brother team has been in business in downtown Lafayette, they have honed their recipes and their selection to include a wide assortment of delectable pies and pastries, including croissants, tarts, scones, muffins, cheesecakes, cookies, macarons, and my personal favorite, bourbon-chocolate-pecan-banana bread. They’ve developed a loyal clientele, many of whom are sorely disappointed if their favorite pastry treat has run out, such as bourbon-chocolate-pecan-banana bread. So Sarah and Jonathan strive to keep their customers happy and the display cases well-stocked with mostly sweet, and a few savory, pastries and pies.
Sarah’s training, experience, and passion as a pastry chef and Jonathon’s business sense and jack-of-all-trades abilities have come together in Lafayette, Indiana, and our community is the richer for it. Stop in for a pie to take home, and treat yourself to one of their many pastries or individual desserts. While you’re there you may wonder, like I did, how they crank out such a variety of treats, like bourbon-chocolate-pecan-banana bread, from that tiny kitchen. The answer is, it takes precise timing, scheduling, and a bit of choreography. And Sarah and Jonathon are making it work. In the picture below Sarah is mixing the BCP banana bread while the stand mixer in the background is whipping up filling for the macarons.
Sweet Revolution is located at 109 N. 5th Street, in Lafayette, Indiana. They are a fixture at the Farmers Markets in downtown Lafayette and on the Purdue campus. Learn more about the bake shop at sweetrevolutionbakeshop.com. And thanks, Sarah and Jonathan, for bringing us your fabulous pastry creations!
Over the recent holidays I took the opportunity to trot out an old family favorite recipe.My “Cincinnati-Style Chili” is great when the kids are home or when friends are over, as it makes a large batch that will feed a crowd. And it offers the opportunity to work with spices you might not think of using in chili. My kitchen demo explaining the steps can be heard below, in this BONUS TRACK of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast.
At some point in my younger days, my family became acquainted with a fast food eatery called Skyline Chili.It was started in Cincinnati by a Greek immigrant who opened his dining establishment within site of the downtown Cincy skyline.He served authentic Greek dishes, and his chili was a big hit with customers. Today dozens of Skyline Chili restaurants dot the states of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and beyond.With a unique seasoning blend, added toppings of beans, onions, shredded cheese (chili three-way), all nestled in a bed of spaghetti, what’s not to love?(Hoosiers know Steak N Shake has its own version of this dish as well.)
Not long after getting our first taste of Skyline Chili, my mom happened upon a recipe for “Cincinnati Chili.”She made it and we judged it as good as Skyline’s.It became one of our family’s favorite wintertime meals.
Many years later, newly married and contemplating the eternal question “What’s for dinner?” I remembered the Cincinnati Chili recipe and thought how good that sounded, and I knew my husband would love it.I called my mom and asked her to read the recipe to me over the phone.What I transcribed is shown below.“June 15—Stacy” referred to the upcoming wedding date of my cousin, which my mom had recently learned and informed me of on the same phone call. Our recipe files sometimes contain vital information that has nothing to do with food.
Now this recipe transcription may leave you scratching your head. I failed to record the second ingredient correctly, and it took several attempts to determine that it is indeed tomato sauce, and not paste. Too bad I didn’t use a pencil. And I didn’t even write the title of the recipe at the top until several years later. The sheet was always folded and filed under “C,” and when I came to the recipe headed with “June 15–Stacy,” I knew I’d found Cincinnati Chili.
Rather than forcing you to decipher my quirky recipe notations, I’ll share what I hope are clearer instructions below. They have evolved over the years. Give it a try this winter for a hearty, family-pleasing dinner. And hear the demo HERE.
Subscribe to the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast wherever you get your podcasts–iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, etc. Links are to your right and at the top of this page.
Cincinnati Style Chili
Makes 8-10 servings
2 lb. ground beef
2 cups chopped onion
2 T canola or vegetable oil
2 T chili powder
1tsp dried chipotle powder
1 tsp dried ancho chili powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp salt
2 T vinegar, any kind
1 T Worchestershire sauce
3 cups water, divided
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried chili pepper, if more heat is desired
For serving, you will need:
1 or 2 14-oz cans red beans or chili beans, rinsed and drained
Shredded cheese (Colby, Colby-jack, pepper jack, cheddar, any of those)
Diced sweet (raw) onion, optional
Measure all dry spices and set aside.
In a large pot or dutch oven, brown ground beef, then remove from pot, drain, and set aside. Into pot (med to med-low heat), drizzle oil, then add chopped onions. Sauté for about a minute, then put in all the pre-measured dried spices. Stir them into the onions and cook another minute. You should begin to smell the fragrance of the spices.Return the ground beef to the pot, then add garlic, salt, vinegar, Worchestershire sauce and one cup water. Turn up heat to med or med-high, and allow mixture to come up to a boil. Stir and scrape up any bits that are stuck on the bottom of the pot. Add the tomato sauce, chocolate, bay leaf and 2 more cups of water. (Go ahead and add the dried chili powder if desired, or add later if you feel chili needs more heat. Or serve it at the table and let everyone decide for themselves!) Also, you can add the beans right to the pot at this point, or reserve and heat them up later to serve with the chili.
The chili at this point is very watery. That’s ok, it will cook down. Allow pot to come back up to boil, then turn down heat to low and let it simmer 2-3 hours, with the lid on, but slightly vented. Stir occasionally making sure chili is not sticking or burning on the bottom. If it cooks down and seems too thick, add more water.
Serve over cooked spaghetti, topped with beans (if serving separately), cheese, and onions if desired.
My final podcast of the year is a conversation with my daughter, Christine Hack. She’s a young bride working on the balance of marriage, work, home, and everything else life throws our way. She has many personal interests and cooking and baking are among them. She often sends me pictures of her kitchen triumphs.
During the Christmas holiday season, Christine and I sat down to talk over some of our favorite holiday foods, traditions, and memories. Hear our conversation HERE.
We cover the gamut from the popularity of oyster dressing at Thanksgiving, to fruitcake (paying homage to Christine’s high school freshman English teacher, the late Shari Schap), to Christmas cookies, and the origin story of our family’s French Market Donuts.
Pour yourself a hot beverage, a glass of wine, or a “wee dram,” and join us at the kitchen table while we chat. I’m sharing recipes for French Market Donuts and Cranberry Noels for you to try over the holidays. Enjoy. And here’s to abundant holiday blessings and a happy new year to all. Cheers!
French Market Donuts (Beignets)
Yields about 7 dozen small square donuts(Note: I make a half recipe to feed a family of four on Christmas morning.)
1 cup hot water
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup evaporated milk
1 package active dry yeast, dissolved in 1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 eggs, room temperature
About 7 cups all purpose flour
Put shortening in large mixing bowl and pour hot water over shortening. Add sugar, salt, and milk. Give it a gentle stir. When mixture becomes lukewarm, add the yeast dissolved in water, eggs, and 4 cups flour. Beat well with electric mixer. Add the remainder of flour, knead a few times just to get the dough cohesive and smooth. Put dough in a large bowl or plastic container (lightly oiled) and place in the refrigerator over night.
When ready to fry, heat at least 4” of oil in a deep pot on the stove or deep fryer, to 350-375º. Have powdered sugar in a sifter or in a large zip-top bag standing by. Cut off chunks of dough and roll them out on a lightly floured surface. Roll thin (about 1/8”) and cut into squares. A pizza cutter works best. Carefully drop dough pieces into hot oil. They fry very quickly so watch them. When golden brown on both sides, remove to drain on paper towel lined baking sheet. When drained, put hot donuts on serving plate and sift a generous amount of powdered sugar over all. Or, put powdered sugar in a zip-top bag, drop in donuts and lightly shake to coat. Serve hot.
Note: When fried, this dough puffs up to make an airy, yet chewy donut. The dough will keep several days in the fridge, so you can have more than one morning of fresh hot donuts!
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.)
In this BONUS TRACK of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast, my daughter, Christine, and I make a quick and easy sweet treat that will have everyone standing in the kitchen crunching and munching the moment it’s done. It’s my Caramel Corn cooked in a paper bag. Hear it HERE.
My mom made this recipe many times when we were growing up. But I had not tried it in ages. When I ran across it in my recipe file a few years ago around Christmas time, I decided I would give it a try on Christmas Day. Something fun to do while celebrating the holiday.
I remembered the caramel corn tasting good when my mom made it, but I had forgotten how addictive it can be! It is very hard to stop eating it once you start. That’s why I hurry and package as much of it as I can to give as gifts. It’s perfect to pass out to neighbors, co-workers, or as stocking stuffers.
Give it a try while the kids are home on winter break. Or if you need a snack to take to a party. It will be time well spent. Very little time, at that.
Caramel Corn in a Paper Bag
8 quarts of popped popcorn (unseasoned)
1 C. brown sugar
½ C. butter
¼ C. light corn syrup
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda (measure and set aside)
One paper grocery bag
Note: All microwave cooking instructions are for HIGH POWER, 1100 watts.
Put popped popcorn in paper grocery bag and set aside.
Have 2-3 large baking pans ready to cool caramel corn.
Combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt in a microwave-safe bowl.(1 to 2 quart capacity) Note:caramel mixture will expand and bubble during cooking so make sure your cooking vessel is large enough. Set aside the baking soda.
Microwave caramel ingredients together for 2 minutes. Stir mixture, and then microwave for 2 more minutes. Add baking soda and stir.Mixture will become foamy.
Pour caramel mixture over popcorn in paper bag.Fold closed and shake bag to distribute caramel. Keep bag closed at all times during cooking and shaking. Place bag in microwave oven. If your microwave does not have a turntable, pause a few times during cooking to move bag around.
Microwave for 1.5 minutes, then shake bag.
Microwave for 1 minute, shake bag.
Microwave for 45 seconds, shake.
Microwave for 30 seconds, shake.
When done, open bag carefully away from your face. Pour caramel corn out onto cookie sheets to cool.
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are well prepared for the holiday feast, whether you are hosting the meal, bringing a dish to someone else’s home, traveling many miles to celebrate with family, or keeping it low key with a small group. I’m putting up a BONUS TRACK of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast with a cooking demo featuring my mom, Barbara Mercer. She and I teamed up last Thanksgiving and stirred together our family’s traditional Fluffy Yeast Rolls. Have a listen to find out just how easily the dough comes together–no kneading required! And the recipe is below. Happy baking, and here’s wishing you and yours abundant Thanksgiving blessings.
Stay in touch here on the website, or on Instagram and Facebook. Be sure to subscribe to the Indiana Home Cooks podcast at iTunes or Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify.
See more pictures and information on the Fluffy Yeast Roll recipe here.
Fluffy Yeast Rolls
From the kitchen of Barbara Mercer, from Margaret Balder
Makes 18 rolls
Dissolve 1 pkg. active dry yeast in 3 T. lukewarm water in a small bowl or measuring cup. While that is dissolving, whisk together the following ingredients in a large mixing bowl:
1/2 C. (one stick) unsalted butter or margarine, melted
1 tsp. salt
1 C. lukewarm water
1/4 C. sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
Add yeast mixture and whisk again. To this mixture, add 3 C. all-purpose flour. Mix with electric mixer until fairly smooth. Stir in 1 C. flour by hand. (Total of 4 cups of flour) Dough will be sticky. DO NOT KNEAD. Leave dough in bowl, cover with a plate or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Three hours before baking:
Remove dough from refrigerator. It should’ve doubled overnight. Grease muffin pans for 18 rolls. Melt 1/4 C. butter.
Punch down dough and pull off pieces of dough roughly the size of large walnuts and shape into balls (2 dough balls for each roll). Dip each ball into melted butter before placing in pan. Cover rolls with tea towels and let rise until double. Bake in preheated 450 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, until golden brown.* After baking, while still hot and in the pans, brush tops with more melted butter. Serve warm.
*If using dark baking pans, reduce oven temp to 425 degrees.