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.)
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.
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.
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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.