Cranberry Noels

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.

The Cranberry Noels recipe is below, and there is more holiday talk and treats in the IHC podcast episode (from 2018) and blog post “Celebrating Holiday Foods.”

May all the blessings of Christmas and the holiday season be yours!

Cranberry Noels

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.)

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Sandy Beach BBQ

Hear the Sandy Beach BBQ episode HERE.

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!

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Michelle & Andy Schwindler

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!

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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!

Italian Pot Roast BONUS TRACK

Hear this podcast episode HERE.

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
  • Olive oil
  • 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

For serving:

  • More parsley
  • 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.

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Slow-braised to fork-tenderness
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Served over polenta, and topped with fresh parsley, olive oil, and grated Parm.

Caramel Corn in a Paper Bag

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.  

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The first stir.
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After cooking the caramel, baking soda is added.
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The soda causes caramel to foam. It’s ready to pour over popcorn.
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It’s all in the bag. Shake to thoroughly mix.
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It’s a close fit in the microwave.
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This bag has done its duty.
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Ready to pour out and cool.

Home Cooks Improv

My husband and I recently attended a concert performed by the Brubeck Brothers Jazz Quartet. It was swingin’ and be-bopin’ for sure. And it happened to be during the week I was putting together the newest podcast episode with my friend and guest Stephanie Hainje. Listening back to the interview, conducted over wine, caprese salad, and a fresh loaf of my sourdough bread, I realized that our discussion had the free-wheeling feel of a improvisational jazz jam session.

Well…that might be overstating it a tad….But we had a blast sharing our summer cooking experiences, tips, and ideas. It was our farewell to summer, and hello to fall. Enjoy the show (just hit the play button above) and here’s one of the recipes Stephanie is cooking this fall–Roasted Red Pepper Soup. It comes from houseofyumm.com.

You can see more of what Stephanie is cooking on her Instagram page @destinysdishes.

And speaking of fall soups, and improvisation, I performed a kitchen improv tonight for dinner. Italian Sausage and Lentil Soup. I’ll have the details soon, and a BONUS TRACK of the podcast to talk you through the recipe. Stay tuned!

Brewing Again at Thieme & Wagner

Congratulations to David Thieme and Thieme & Wagner Bar, now brewing full-time their own family beer recipes! It’s a resurrection, of sorts, of the pre-Prohibition Thieme & Wagner Brewing Co. Great article in the Lafayette Journal & Courier on Sunday.

David Thieme was the guest on my second Indiana Home Cooks podcast episode last year. If you never heard it, or want to listen again, click the play button above. That episode, and all the others, are available for listening on demand at iTunes/Apple Podcasts or Stitcher (links at the top of the page), or wherever you get your podcasts. Please subscribe, and if you like what you hear, leave a review. It’s wonderful to hear from listeners. If you have a topic you would like to hear about, leave me comment right here on the blog, or in the podcast review section where you listen. Of course you can always comment on Facebook and Instagram, where you will find me @indianahomecooks. Thanks!

Here is a small sample of the memorabilia you’ll find on the walls of Thieme & Wagner Bar, 652 Main St., Lafayette, IN…

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Paleo and Not So Paleo

 

My daughter Christine and I traveled to Manhattan, Kansas, in May to visit friends and our old stomping grounds. (Read more about it in my previous post here.)  On the new podcast episode, we are in the Manhattan kitchen of Karin Matta cooking up an indulgent cauliflower crust pizza.

Also in the new episode we hear more from Sharon Davis of the Home Baking Association. During our chat she mentions the King Arthur Flower website as a superb resource for home bakers. I agree. I have done a lot of sourdough baking recently and have used many tips and recipes from KAF.

See pictures of some of my sourdough baking and other dishes @indianahomecooks on Instagram.

Scroll down for pictures from our Kansas excursion

Karin’s Cauliflower Crust PizzaIMG_5174

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked, riced cauliflower
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp garlic salt
  • Pizza sauce
  • Shredded cheese (for topping)
  • Your choice of additional toppings (olives, meat, grilled onions, mushrooms, etc) – note that toppings need to be precooked (they will be reheated when you complete the broiling process below).

Directions:

To “rice” the Cauliflower:

Take 1 large head of fresh cauliflower, remove stems and leaves, and chop the florets into chunks.  Add to food processor and pulse until it looks like grain.  Do not over-do pulse or you will puree it.  (If you don’t have a food processor, you can grate the whole head with a cheese greater).  Place the riced cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 8 minutes (some microwaves are more powerful than others, so you may need to reduce this cooking time).  There is no need to add water, as the natural moisture in the cauliflower is enough to cook itself. – I suggest 4 minutes if only doing 1 cup.  I generally shred the entire cauliflower and make a larger pizza (i.e. doubling all ingredients) or multiple pizzas crusts at one time and freeze extra pizza crusts for future use. 

One large head should produce approximately 3 cups of riced cauliflower.  The remainder can be used to make additional pizza crusts immediately, or can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.  We also use riced cauliflower as “rice” by heating it with butter and adding ground meat (or chicken) and additional vegetables for a “stir fry” type meal.

To Make the Pizza Crust: IMG_5172

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.  I use pizza stones and do not add any cooking spray or oils.   Do NOT put the crust on tin foil as it is very difficult to separate it.

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup cauliflower, egg and mozzarella.  Add oregano, crushed garlic and garlic salt; stir.  Transfer to the cookie sheet, and using your hands, pat out into a 9” round.  Optional:  Brush olive oil over top of mixture to help with browning.

Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes (start with less time).

Remove from oven.  To the crust, add sauce, toppings and cheese.  Place under a broiler at high heat just until cheese is melted (approximately 3-4 minutes).

Enjoy!  (Karin’s notes in italics. Adapted from Your Lighter Side.)

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Here’s that shredder. Awesome!

 

Susan’s Crazy Chocolate Cake–The recipe is here.

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Highlights from our Kansas excursion…..

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Spoons, anyone? Pryde’s in Westport, Kansas City, MO.
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Karin, me, Christine, & Tori at Radina’s Bakehouse.
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Radina’s has the right attitude.
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Karin’s flat top grill. How cool is that?
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The Flint Hills tallgrass prairie in northeast Kansas.

One summer circle came to a close when Karin and Tori visited West Lafayette at the end of June for the wedding of our daughter Christine and Logan Hack. Christine, born and raised in Kansas, is happy to express her Sunflower State heritage.

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Friends & Neighbors

Catching up with old friends is a delightfully grounding experience. Many years may have passed, but the reminiscing brings you all right back to the same spot in time. For me, that spot is Carbon, Indiana, in northern Clay County, and our little community of friends and neighbors.

The Egloff “clan” all lived within a three-mile radius of my family’s home. The brothers Earl, Ernie, and Ralph (aka Pat), were there my whole life, and their sister Lucille moved almost next door a bit later. There was always something interesting going on with the Egloffs and their spouses and kids. Family cookouts and fishing at the Egloff pond, card parties, church activities, delicious food, and so on.

The oldest brother, Earl, was my grandfather’s best friend and fishing buddy. It was fun just listening to those two talk. It was fun listening to any of the Egloffs talk. Some were droll, some boisterous, but it was always interesting, whatever they had to say, and how they said it. The voice is so much a part of the person. Inflection, dialect, feeling, tone, it all helps define our perception of a person’s identity.

In the latest Indiana Home Cooks podcast episode, I’m joined by two of the Egloff clan. Mary Egloff, wife of Ernie, and Pat Egloff, who is also known as Ralph. (We explain the two identities in the episode!) They graciously shared memories of their younger days, and our common bonds as family friends. Sadly, both Ernie and Pat’s wife Joan are no longer with us. I recently heard an old Irish blessing that struck a chord. “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, but love leaves a memory no one can steal.” That is abundantly apparent talking with Mary and Pat. They have memories aplenty, and I am blessed to have shared in a few of them.

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Richelle In A Handbasket

Hear this podcast episode HERE.

There is a place on the alley in Lafayette’s Market Square where an attitude of gratitude is pervasive. When you walk in the door you are greeted with warm hospitality, smiles, and even hugs. Oh, and then there’s the chocolate…and the “Addiction”…and so many other candies and snacks and gift merchandise. And it’s all from Indiana. Well, at least ninety-nine percent of it is, and 100 percent from small businesses. It’s a shop called Richelle In A Handbasket, and the idea is to help people up their game in showing gratitude. On the latest episode of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast, I visit Richelle In A Handbasket. You can hear it right here:

Richelle Peterson moved from a corporate career to entrepreneur, because of a call to help people do a better job of showing gratitude. A gift card or a box of summer sausage, cheese, and crackers don’t cut it for Richelle. And in the area of corporate gift giving–to clients and employees at holiday time–she saw a huge opportunity. I’ve always said, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth,” but I, and probably most of us, have been on the receiving end of a gift that wasn’t particularly thoughtful. Enter, Richelle Peterson, to the rescue!

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And she does give the impression of riding in to save the day. (Check the podcast to hear why Wonder Woman is so important to her!) We’ve all heard the old phrase “going to hell in a hand basket,” describing a situation going badly. Richelle has faced difficult circumstances, and turned the idea of “going to hell in a hand basket” on its head. The baskets that leave her shop are filled with love and care, hugs and smiles. Her goal is that the recipient feels all those things when they receive one of her baskets. And when they taste the truffles, the toffee, the Addiction snack mix, they taste the quality and care that go into every bite.

The story of Richelle and her shop is the story of Indiana Home Cooks. It’s about understanding the importance of putting your heart and soul into what you do. For me it’s about cooking a meal as an act of love. For Richelle it’s about the thought, care, concern, and love that go into the foods and into the baskets that leave her store to bring smiles and blessings to the recipients. It’s not about what we are eating, it’s about the shared experience, the tradition, the goodness, the love and care that come with the eating.

Richelle is not a fan of the Heath Bar candy bar, as you can hear in the podcast. Her English toffee puts a Heath Bar to shame. Still, I have a recipe for Heath Bar Cake that I’ve made all my life. Maybe I’ll bake one and bring her a slice. And I’ll share the recipe here, another day!

Learn more at richelleinahandbasket.com, and on Facebook.

A Look Back–Part One

The Indiana Home Cooks Podcast keeps moving forward with plans for more shows to listen to and posts to read here on the IHC blog. Sharing the stories of people who cook, eat, and drink in the Hoosier State is my mission, and coming soon are shows featuring Indiana food artisans. First, a sound montage from the recent Artisans Marketplace in Indianapolis, and later, a more in-depth conversation with an artisan candy maker in Lafayette. Watch for those episodes coming soon to Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Stitcher, and SoundCloud. Simply click the links on the right side of this page, or go to those apps on your phone and search for “Indiana Home Cooks.”

So far nineteen podcast episodes have been produced. I’m highlighting a few of my favorites in this and subsequent posts to give readers and listeners an idea of what the show is all about.  It’s about friends spending time together and sharing a few laughs, memories and recipes…

I hope you give these shows a listen if you haven’t already heard them. Please share them with your friends or family, and give them a rating if you have a moment. That will help others find the show too.

I am deeply grateful for the support of family and friends who have encouraged me to pursue this venture, and have been willing accomplices by letting me interview them on tape! It’s been a blast and I’m looking forward to finding and sharing more stories of cooking, eating, and drinking in the Hoosier State. I hope you will join me.

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The week after Easter, I interviewed Susie Butler, owner of Butler Winery in Bloomington. More on that here.  I couldn’t leave without a bottle, or two, of her wine. I also met Richelle Peterson, owner and operator of Richelle In A Handbasket candy and gift shop in Lafayette, when I walked into her shop and she handed me a piece of chocolate. That’s her English Toffee in the picture below. I’ll interview her soon for the podcast. Another day that week I met a fellow podcaster in Lafayette, Craig Martin, host of Art Tap. Craig is an artist and his podcast explores the vast arts scene in the Lafayette area. Check it out on his blog or on Apple Podcasts and iTunes.

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