Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chicken with Black Beans and Cream Cheese

You can make this in a Dutch oven or crockpot, whichever you have on hand. It's a super-simple recipe, but the end result tastes good. Anita is under the weather today. This hit the spot!

Makes: 4 servings
Prep time: 3 minutes
Cook time: 5 1/2 hours
Printable Recipe


  • 4-5 boneless chicken breasts, frozen or fresh.
  • 1 (15 1/2 oz) can black beans, drained
  • 1 (15 oz) can corn, drained
  • 1 (15 oz) jar salsa, any kind
  • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese

1. Place chicken into Dutch oven or crockpot.

2. Add beans, corn, and salsa.

3. Cover and cook on high (crockpot) or medium (Dutch oven) for 4-5 hours if chicken is frozen, or 2-3 hours if chicken is fresh. Chicken should be cooked thoroughly.

4. Add cream cheese on top of chicken and let cook an additional 30 minutes until melted.

5. Serve in bowls with tortilla chips.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Simple Baked Potato Wedges

I had a few potatoes laying around that I needed to use up so I made them into wedges, spiced them, and tossed them into the oven.

Printable Recipe

  • 4 large potatoes, washed and cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 T Parmesan cheese
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T paprika
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 1/2 t garlic powder

1. Place potatoes skin down in a baking dish.

2. Mix all other ingredients together and brush onto potatoes.

3. Bake at 350° for one hour.

These are simple, and really good. A variation would be to melt some sharp cheddar on top at the end, or to try different dipping sauces besides ketchup.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Spring Mill State Park, Mitchell, Indiana

We stayed at the Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell, Indiana, while we were in town for the Persimmon Festival.

Anita had been to the park many times as a kid. This was her (and my) first time spending the night there. We had a free hour before we had to go back into town, so we drove down to the Pioneer Village, which has about 20 or so log and stone structures from the early 1800s. They are all very well taken care of, and many have park employees (called 'interpreters') that will gladly explain the structure or how people lived there.

The heart of the village is the gristmill.

The mill is powered by a spring that flows into the mill via an elevated flume. After he retired, my father-in-law worked in the mill as an interpreter, grinding corn and informing visitors about the history of the structure.

The Granny White House was moved to the property in 1931 by the Civilian Conservation Corp.

Inside the house.

Another house.

The lower residence.

There are several shops, including a pottery, distillery, wood shop, leather shop, a weaver's and more.

Much of the restoration work on Spring Mill was performed in the 30s by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC). Besides working at Spring Mill after he retired, my father-in-law worked there for the CCC before WWII. He was involved with the rebuilding of the roads and the dam.

We stayed at the inn in the park. It was really quite nice, and the rooms were comfortable. There's a game room downstairs that kept the kids busy, along with a nice indoor/outdoor pool. We were very happy with the accommodations, and will seek out more state park inns in our future travels.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

2009 Persimmon Festival Parade

We just returned from Mitchell, Indiana, where we enjoyed the 2009 Persimmon Festival. Of course the best part of the festival is seeing family, but the next best thing is the parade!

The parade begins with emergency equipment from all over the area.

Color guard.

Mitchell High School Blue Jacket cheerleaders. L-E-T-S G-O!

Festival queen.

Awesome old Plymouth.

My favorite car in the parade.

Awesome 1930 Model A.


The Shriners are my favorite! They are crazy!

More Shriners! I could watch them all day!

These guys are always a highlight of the parade.

This is the motorcycle riding safety portion of the parade. Not.

Scary thing is that the truck on the left is normal sized! Ok, I'm kidding.

Awesome old Allis-Chalmers. There were several great old tractors.

Spongebob Square Pants ROCKS!

Airborne Band.

I didn't see any markings but I believe this is a National Guard M984 HEMTT wrecker truck. There was also a tanker version in the parade.

The end of the parade (as it has been for the last few years) was the Chicago South Shore Drill Team. They are really awesome. Unfortunately, they did not perform in front of us, but they did stop further down the street so we did get to watch them. I just couldn't get any good pictures at that point.

It was a great parade as always! We'll post more pictures from the Persimmon Festival and our stay out at the Spring Mill Inn soon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Creamed Corn

I'm totally addicted to fresh sweet corn. As much as I love garden tomatoes, I think really sweet sweet corn just can't be beat.

Tonight I made a side dish of creamed corn. It was really very good. Creamy, tender, and sweet. And very easy to make, too!

Now that I look closer at that picture, it reminds me that it's time to oil the Boos board again!

Printable Recipe


  • 8 ears corn, husked
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 T AP flour
  • S & P
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 T bacon grease
  • 1 T butter (optional. The corn we used was so sweet we skipped the butter)

1. In a large bowl, cut off the tips of the cobs. Cut the kernels from the cobs. Using the back of the knife, scrape against the cob to press out the milk liquid.

2. Whisk together sugar, flour, salt and pepper (to taste). Combine with corn.

3. Add the heavy cream and water and mix.

4. Heat the bacon grease in a large skillet over medium heat. Add corn mixture and reduce heat to medium-low, stirring until creamy, about 30 minutes.

5. Add butter right before serving, if desired.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Stuffed Potatoes

I ignored the fact that we have a fridge full of various leftovers and made stuffed potatoes for dinner. I did at least put some leftover mac-n-cheese on the plate so we did use some of the leftovers. And yes, it was high-carb night here. Once a year, you just have to load up!

Printable Recipe

Ingredients for the stuffed potato:

2 medium-sized Idaho potatoes
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup AP flour
1/2 cup milk
2+ cups shredded very sharp white cheddar cheese
2 heads broccoli florets, blanched in salty water
1/2 pound bacon, diced, cooked crisp
2 T chives, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400° F.

2. Pierce potatoes with a fork, wrap in foil and put in oven for about 1 hours 20 mins.

3. While potatoes are baking, combine the butter and flour over medium heat in a sauce pan then whisk in the milk.

4. Fold in 2 cups of the cheese and stir until melted.

5. Remove from heat and fold in the broccoli, bacon, chives, and S&P.

6. When the potatoes are done, make a slit down the stop and spoon filling on top. Sprinkle with additional cheese and return to oven to melt cheese, about 2-4 minutes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Poor Man's Shrimp Boil

Mike and I went to the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning and got some new potatoes and a bag of My Dad's Sweet Corn. We decided to do a shrimp boil. The shrimp boil bag busted, but it came out delicious. It's rainy here today or we would have eaten outside on newspaper just like a real New England shrimp boil.

Printable Recipe


  • Water
  • 2 lemons, halved, plus more for serving
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup crab boil seasoning
  • 1/2 bunch thyme, tied together
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 2 serrano chiles, split in 1/2 lengthwise
  • 1 head garlic, halved
  • 1 pound 5 ounces red new potatoes, medium to large cut in 1/2
  • 3 ears sweet corn, halved
  • 3 pieces smoked sausage, like andouille or kielbasa, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 pound 5 ounces)
  • 12 clams, scrubbed (about 1 pound 4 ounces) optional
  • 2 pounds jumbo shrimp

1. Fill a huge stockpot, with about 4 quarts of water. Don't fill the pot up more than half way.

2. Squeeze the lemons into the water and add the halves too.

3. Add the bay leaves, salt, seasoning, thyme, onions, chiles and garlic. Bring the broth to a boil over medium high heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

4. The broth should be aromatic with lots of salt and spices. You want the potatoes and other ingredients to absorb the broth. Adjust seasoning with salt if needed.

5. Add the potatoes to the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

6. Add the corn and sausage and cook another 5 minutes, making sure everything is covered in the liquid.

7. Add the clams if using (we didn't) and boil for 8-10 minutes until they open. If you don't add the clams, still cook for 8-10 minutes.

8. Add the shrimp and shut off the heat. Cover the pot and let the shrimp steep for 15 minutes.

9. Drain and serve with lemons and lots of napkins.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

BBQ Ribs, Roasted Corn, and Gruyere Mac-n-Cheese

Oh me. I can't hardly type this right now. We both ate way, way too much. But, how can you not?

I fired up the smoker this morning and threw on 4 racks of baby back ribs. First two racks were rubbed down with Dizzy Pig Coarse Grind, for the neighbors. The next two got some Dizzy Pig Red Eye Express. Cooked over lump charcoal, Kingsford, and hickory.

While the ribs were enjoying their time on the smoker, we mixed up a batch of some Gruyere mac and cheese. Really very delicious. And we threw few ears of corn on the grill to get a nice char on them.

For the mac-n-cheese you'll need:

  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1 quart milk
  • 8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 12 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 8 oz extra-sharp cheddar, grated
  • 1/2 t fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 t grated nutmeg
  • 4 small tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh white bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

2. Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to package. Drain well.

3. Heat milk in a small saucepan but do not boil.

4. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a 4-quart or larger pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk.

5. While still whisking, add the hot milk and cook for 1-2 minutes until thick and smooth. Remove from heat.

6. Add the cheeses, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the macaroni and stir well. Pour into a non-stick 3-quart baking dish.

7. Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top.

8. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and combine with bread crumbs. Sprinkle on top.

9. Back for 30-35 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and topping is browned.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Grilled Brats with Stuffed Portabellos

The brats were your standard fare. Grilled, then topped with sauteed green and red peppers, onion, and mushrooms. Served on toasted fresh buns.

The stuffed portabellos were quite good.

Normally, this recipe is for stuffed smaller mushrooms, like mini bellas or buttons. I had two large portabellos I needed to use up, so we stuffed them.


  • 3 slices bacon, chopped fine
  • 1 lb mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup soft breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 t oregano
  • 1/4 t salt

1. Remove stems from mushrooms and chop fine.

2. Put bacon, stems, onion and garlic into a frying pan and saute in a tablespoon of butter or olive oil.

3. Cook until onion is soft, then drain on a paper towel.

4. Stir in remaining ingredients (other than mushrooms).

5. Stuff mushroom caps with ingredients.

6. Bake on a cookie sheet at 375° F for 10 minutes

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cooper's Hawk

I saw this Cooper's hawk, early the other morning. I was getting ready to hop in the shower when I happened to see a large white object out of the corner of my eye. Grabbed my camera and went out onto the deck and took a few shots. Most came out too dark, but this one was fairly good.

Simple Crab Salad on Bibb Lettuce

Well, I admit, I used imitation crab for this, but you could certainly use fresh if you have it available. This is a nice, fairly light salad that tastes great.


  • 1 (8 oz) package of crabmeat, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1/4 t dill weed
  • 1 t prepared horseradish
  • 2-3 cups salad greens (we used bibb lettuce)
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

1. In a bowl, combine the crab, green onions, celery, lemon juice, mayo, dill weed and horseradish. Mix well.

2. Place salad greens on plates, top with crab mixture and sprinkle with parsley. Add lemon wedges.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Spitfire Shrimp

I'm still on the fence about these shrimp. Anita loved them, but I thought they were just OK. This actually is an hors d'oeuvre recipe, but I served the shrimp over rice with roasted asparagus on the side.

Ingredients for the seasoning:

  • 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup hot pepper sauce (such as Frank's)
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 T crab boil seasoning

Ingredients for the shrimp:

  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 pounds shrimp peeled and deveined. I used 26-30s.
  • 12 blades of chives, chopped, for garnish

1. Combine the ingredients for the seasoning in a bowl.

2. Preheat large skillet over medium high heat.

3. Quickly saute garlic and shallots in oil and butter for 1 minute. Add shrimp and cook for 3 minutes, tossing and turning often until shrimp are pink and firm.

4. Dump shrimp into seasoning blend and toss to coat.

5. Garnish with chives.

Monday, September 14, 2009

English Roast Beef Sandwich

This actually didn't start out as I'd planned. I had planned on purchasing an eye-round roast to dry roast for roast beef, but I ended up slow-cooking a boneless English roast for 8 or so hours (plus overnight brining) and chopping it for sandwiches. I have to say that the end result was magnificently tender and moist and delicious!

You can probably skip the first two steps (the overnight brining), but I did it because I wanted to see what effect it would have on the meat. That or I goofed up. Either way, it came out great!


  • 4 pound boneless English roast
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 Medium Onion, sliced into rings
  • Vegetable oil
  • 6 t beef bouillon or 6 cubes
  • 3 t garlic powder
  • red potatoes
  • carrots
  • celery

1. Rub the roast with salt and pepper (3 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper for a 4 pound roast. Adjust if your roast is smaller/larger).

2. Wrap the roast in plastic wrap and sit in fridge overnight.

3. Next day, heat oil in a Dutch oven. Brown roast on each side, about 10 minutes each side, in hot oil.

4. Dissolve beef bouillon in 2 cups hot water and add to beef. You could substitute beef broth instead if you'd like.

5. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

6. Layer sliced onion over roast, cover, and simmer for 6 hours.

7. Add vegetables, and simmer another 2 hours.

8. Decision time. You can eat as a roast, or what we did is brown a few hoagie rolls, top with the chopped beef and some melted provolone. Poured some au jus in a bowl and made French (or rather, English!) dips! Man, they were good! Serve the veggies on the side or heap them on top of the sandwich.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sweet Corn

It's getting late in the season, so we went and picked up a big batch of My Dad's Sweet Corn at the farmer's market and proceeded to blanch and freeze it for the winter.

There's something relaxing about sitting in a lawn chair on your driveway early in the morning, shucking ear after ear of corn. I probably would think differently about it if we'd had 100 or so ears to do.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Spicy Chicken Fingers

These chicken fingers really came out tender, crispy, and tasty. I'll definitely make them again, but I'll probably cut them a little thinner next time.

You can use whatever you like for a dipping sauce, such as mustard or even Ranch dressing. I used the Scallion Dipping Sauce we made before, but substituted red jalapeños from our garden.


Vegetable oil, for frying
1 1/2 cups flour
1 t paprika
1 t poultry seasoning
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t allspice
1 cup buttermilk
2 pounds boneless chicken breast, sliced thin, or tenders
S & P

1. Heat oil to 350°

2. In a bowl, mix the paprika, flour, poultry seasoning, cayenne and allspice. Divide among two pie plates (regular plates will do just fine). Pour buttermilk into a third pie plate. Arrange the plates in the order flour mix, buttermilk, and then the other flour mix.

3. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Coat chicken in flour mix, then buttermilk, and then in a second coating of flour.

4. Cook chicken about 6 minutes per side (or less. You may want to pull one out a little sooner and test it for doneness. Our chicken did not require the full 6 minutes per side, but more like 8 minutes total), until golden brown and firm. Drain and serve.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Corn Fritters

These fritters really come out moist, with a crunchy outside and great flavor. I used some corn from My Dad's Sweet Corn, fresh from the market. Really outstanding (despite a little salt overload on the one in the back!)! We skipped the powdered sugar because of the carbs.


  • Oil, for frying
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 4 T sugar (or Splenda)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 T butter, melted
  • 1 cup corn kernels (drained or if fresh, towel dried)
  • powdered sugar (optional)

1. Heat oil to 350° F.

2. In a bowl mix sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.

3. In a separate bowl mix together the eggs, milk, and butter.

4. Whisk the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and stir in the corn.

5. Drop by tablespoons into hot oil, frying for about 5 minutes or until golden brown.

6. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Carr's Cottages, Gatlinburg TN

When we were in Gatlinburg last weekend we stayed at Carr's Cottages, just up the hill out of town. We really enjoyed our stay there.

We rented a one bedroom cottage (with kitchenette) along the river.

Although were weren't but 50 feet from the highway we couldn't hear the traffic (except when really loud Harley's went by) because of the sound of the waterfall. I spent many an hour sitting out on the porch with a cold beverage listening to Twit podcasts.

If you go, I'd recommend getting a room or cottage along the river. It's really quite nice. And you can't beat their prices.

There are places you can sit and have fires, or read, or whatever.

Carr's has a nice playground area and pool.

All the folks at Carr's were pleasant and helpful. No wonder they came so highly recommended. The only thing I might complain about is that they don't have Wi-Fi.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pork Chops with Sage Cream Gravy, Corn Chowder and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

This meal came out tasting great, even though the gravy should've been a little whiter in color. I think the reason for it being dark is because I did the chops in the cast iron skillet and a lot of little brown yum yums got mixed into the gravy. Regardless, it was all tasty good!

For the chops:

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 2 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 T chopped fresh sage
  • 4 1" center cut chops
  • S & P
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T flour
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 400° F. In a wide bowl, whisk 1/2 cup milk with egg. In a dish, combine the panko and 1 tablespoon of the parsley and sage.

2. Season chops with S & P. Coat each with egg mix, then with panko mix, shaking off any excess.

3. Heat 1/4 cup oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add the chops in batches and cook 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to a rack set over a baking sheet. Reserve the skillet. Bake chops until just cooked through, 8-10 minutes.

4. In the skillet, heat the remaining 2 T of oil. Add the flour and cook, whisking, until golden. Whisk in the remaining 1 cup of milk and the cream. Stir in remaining parsley and sage and bring to a boil. Simmer until thick, about 2 minutes. Season with S & P and serve with the chops.

For the corn chowder:

  • 4 pieces thick bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • S & P
  • 1 small jalapeño, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 large red potatoes, small diced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 16 oz frozen corn
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, saute the bacon until crisp. Remove bacon to paper towel and remove grease until just 4 tablespoons remain the pan.

2. Add the onions and pepper to the pan and saute until tender, about 4 minutes.

3. Season with S & P, to taste and add the jalapeño and garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.

4. Stir in the flour until thoroughly combined and cook for about 1 minute, or until it reaches a slight blonde color.

5. Stir in the chicken stock and potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes. Potatoes will become soft.

6. Add the cream, corn and bay leaf and simmer for another 15 minutes.

7. Pour into serving bowl and top with bacon.

For the Brussels sprouts:

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • S & P
  • Oil

1. Preheat oven to 400° F.

2. Slice bottoms off sprouts and mark an X across the stem with a sharp knife.

3. Put sprouts in a bowl and drizzle with oil, S & P.

4. Spread sprouts onto a sheet pan and bake for about 20 minutes, or until fork-tender. Remove from oven and sprinkle with more salt.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies

While we were in Gatlinburg we just had to swing by the Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies for a few hours. Our favorite aquarium up until this trip (and it might still be a tie) was the Newport Aquarium in Newport, KY. Some day we'll go to some of the larger aquariums, like Baltimore or Atlanta.

There were all sorts of cool fish, like this piranha.

And this grouper (I think), who didn't look so happy to see us.

There were some awesome jellyfish.

These fish reminded us of the bar/restaurant we stopped in on our way to Gatlinburg. It is called the Islamorada Fish Company and it's in Sevierville, TN. They had a way cool big fish tank behind the bar. We could've sat there for hours on end just watching the fish (and enjoying some adult beverages).

The shark tank is really big at the aquarium. The underwater tube is about 340 feet long. We had to go through it twice it was so much fun!

The saw-toothed sharks were awesome. They just sat on top of the clear tube, right above where we were walking! You'd almost think you were looking at a person.

The aquarium is well worth the price of admission (I think it was about $20 for me to get in. Anita got in free because a friend at work had given her a coupon. Lucky her!).