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.)
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!
Hear this Bonus Track of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast HERE.
All our Indiana crops are suffering from late planting, soggy, if not out-right flooded soils, and cool temperatures so far this spring and summer. We will see the effects throughout the season in farm fields, in the garden, and at the farmers markets. Lower than normal yields and a decrease in quality are no doubt in store this summer and fall.
For those who like to cook with the seasons, it might be “slim pickin’s” of fresh local produce this summer, but we’ll manage and make do with the choices available. If the quality of produces is not picture perfect, I have a suggestion. Try a vegetable tian. It’s pronounced “tee ANN” or “tee OHN,” depending on how French you want to sound. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle–“tee AHN.” However you say it, it’s a delicious and easy way to prepare summer vegetables in a flavorful, colorful side dish.
There are many versions of tian, but it’s all the same idea. Google it and you’ll find recipes from Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, and about every chef out there. In my version, it starts on the stove in a cast iron skillet, then we move out to the grill for most of the cooking. I usually cook this dish on the gas grill, but live fire will work also, as long as you can monitor and regulate your cooking temp. With a small amount of seasoning, this combination comes out bursting with flavor and freshness.
Vegetable Tian On The Grill
Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper (plus thyme or oregano, if desired)
One large yellow sweet onion, sliced in 1/4-inch thick slices
4-5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4-5 Yukon Gold or red skin potatoes, depending on size, sliced 1/4-in thick
2-3 ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/4-in thick
2-3 small zucchini, sliced 1/4-in thick
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
On the stove, heat a 10-inch cast iron skillet, or other pan suitable for the grill, to medium low. Get the outdoor grill preheated to 375º. Drizzle in the skillet about 2 T olive oil, then put in onion slices and begin to cook, no higher than medium low. You are not cooking them completely, just getting them started. After a couple minutes, add the garlic, stir, and continue cooking gently for another minute. Then remove from heat and turn off stove. Season the onions and garlic with just a pinch of salt and pepper, and add another drizzle of olive oil.
To the skillet, on top of the onions, add the potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini in layers. Either potato/tomato/zucchini, in a fan arrangement, or a potato layer, followed by tomato layer, followed by zucchini layer. Whatever makes you happy. Season lightly as you add layers. Top with the parmesan cheese and another generous drizzle of olive oil.
Using oven mitts (it may still be hot from the stove) take the skillet out to the preheated grill (375º). Place it on the grill over direct heat. After 10-15 minutes, move to indirect heat and finish cooking, about 30 more minutes. At that point, cover the pan with aluminum foil and continue cooking 15 more minutes, for a total cooking time of 60 minutes on the grill. Test potatoes for doneness before removing from grill.
When done, set the skillet aside while you finish preparing the rest of the meal. The tian can sit for up to 30 minutes before serving. It’s also good served at room temperature. Serve it right out of the skillet.
If you don’t want to cook the tian on the grill, simply bake in a 375º oven following the same instructions.
The “Indiana Traminette” episode of the IHC podcast is HERE.
June is “Indiana Wine Grape Month,” and the nearly 100 wineries of Indiana are proudly featuring our state’s official signature grape—Traminette. I sat down recently with a couple of experts on Traminette and foods that go with it, on the latest episode of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast. Thom England is a Certified Executive Chef and Culinary Arts Progam Coordinator at Ivy Tech in Indianapolis. Meredith Easley is with Easley Winery in downtown Indy. Hear what we talked about and tasted HERE.
A hybrid of the German Gewürztraminer and the French Joannes Seyve, Traminette is all-American, having been developed in the 1960’s and 70’s by researchers at the University of Illinois and Cornell University. And it’s gaining in popularity for growers, winemakers, and consumers in the Midwest because of its suitability to our growing conditions and its versatility.
I love Traminette and the variety of styles our Indiana winemakers produce—it can be floral and spicy, crisp and fruity, dry, off-dry, or subtly sweet. Traminette’s versatility makes it a perfect wine to sample and compare as you visit wineries around the state.
Thanks to Martin Marcelo and Gina Powell of Easley Winery for their help with our tasting–prepping, pouring, and photographing! And thanks to Thom for his delicious food and Meredith for the delightful wines. Cheers!
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!