Sunday, February 28, 2010

Raccoon visit

Raccoon enjoying some birdseed...

Raccoon getting ready to leave....

Raccoon almost gone...

Raccoon gone... FAIL! (note the paws stuck in between the fence slats)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Spaghetti and Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Sometimes in the winter, you just need a big ol' helping of meatballs with spaghetti. This recipe from Bobby Flay hit the spot.

I didn't have any ground veal on hand, so I just used 1/4 cup more each of the ground pork and beef. Adjust the ratios as you desire.

Makes: 4 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Printable Recipe

Ingredients for the Meatballs:

  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 2 large eggs, beaten lightly
  • 1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped fine and sautéed
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped fine
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all ingredients except oil in a bowl. Season.

2. Roll the mixture into 1 1/2 inch balls.

3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry meatballs in batches until golden brown, but not completely cooked. Remove to drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 (28 oz) cans plum tomatoes and their juices, puréed in a blender.
  • 1 (16 0z) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small bunch Italian parsley
  • 1 chile pepper, chopped (I used a Serrano since I prefer some heat)
  • Meatballs, from above
  • 1 pound cooked spaghetti, drained, but still in the pot
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat.

2. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft.

3. Add puréed tomatoes with their juices, along with the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf, parsley, chile pepper, and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil.

4. Taste and season. Reduce heat and cook until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.

5. Add meatballs and let simmer another 15 minutes until the sauce is thick and the meatballs are tender.

6. Remove the bay leaf.

7. Spoon a little of the tomato sauce into the pasta pot and stir, covering the pasta.

8. Serve pasta with meatballs and garnish with basil.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Italian Breadstick Popcorn

Nothing beats a tasty bowl of popcorn for an afternoon snack. I found this recipe at the Recipe Gold Mine. Using a good, fresh popcorn (and not that horrid microwave stuff) makes a huge difference.

Makes: 4 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Printable Recipe

  • 1 T basil
  • 1 T parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (can sub 1/4 t garlic powder)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 5 T popcorn
  • 2 T oil

1. Mix all but the oil and popcorn in a bowl.

2. Add oil and popcorn to popper and pop until just done.

3. Remove popcorn from heat and add the spice mix. Stir until mixed thoroughly.

4. Serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shrimp Sandwiches with Roasted Red Pepper Remoulade

This is a shameless copycat of a post on Rawtalent's Club Eclectica blog.

I'm not sure I 100% duplicated Rawtalent's remoulade (certainly his money shot looks so much better!), but it came out tasting great.

Makes: 2 sandwiches (with plenty of sauce left over)
Prep time: 3 hours 5 minutes (Only 5 minutes if you make the remoulade and shrimp ahead of time and let them chill)
Cook time: 5 minutes
Printable Recipe

For the remoulade:

  • 1 egg (See below if you're averse to eating a raw egg)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 (6 oz) jar roasted red peppers, drained (or roast your own, about 2 medium peppers worth)
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, minced
  • 1 T Creole mustard (I used Zatarain's)
  • 1 t dry mustard
  • 1 t fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t ground cumin
  • 1/4 t ground red pepper

1. Place egg in food processor. Turn on low and slowly pour in the oil. Scrape down sides and pour into a small bowl.

2. Place remaining remoulade ingredients into food processor and pulse until smooth. Fold into the egg mixture.

3. Cover and chill.

Note on using a raw egg: You can use egg substitute instead of the raw egg, or omit the egg and oil and substitute 2/3 cup of mayo.

For the shrimp:

  • 1/2 pound fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined (You can use precooked shrimp if you wish)

If you're using raw shrimp, cook them first, as below:

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.

2. Remove from heat and add the shrimp.

3. Let steep for 3-5 minutes until done.

4. Remove shrimp from water and drain. Chill until ready to use.

For the sandwiches:

  • 2 Portuguese sandwich rolls or sub rolls, whichever you desire
  • Prepared horseradish, to taste
  • 2 green onions
  • Cooked shrimp
  • Roasted red pepper remoulade, to taste
  • 2 T fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 green onions, sliced

1. Toast buns.

2. Spread horseradish and remoulade on bottom of buns.

3. Add shrimp, parsley and green onion.

4. Top with more remoulade.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Birthday Cake by Shug's Cakes

Here is a pic of my birthday cake that my niece, Christine, made for me. Isn't it beautiful? It's in my favorite color, orange! It was delicious! The bottom layer was red velvet (my favorite), the second layer was chocolate and the top layer was white. Christine is going to start making cakes professionally soon. Here is a link to pictures of other cakes she has done.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Peruvian-Style Roast Chicken with Sweet Potato Matchsticks

This turned out to be an outstanding dinner. The chicken was moist and had a great aroma and taste. The sweet potato matchsticks were just great. Super crunchy and with just a little kick from the Cajun spices. We added some roasted Brussels sprouts to round out the dish.

The original chicken recipe came from Whole Foods. The sweet potato matchsticks are a recipe from Tyler Florence, one of my favorites on the Food Networks since he does really cook and doesn't need gimmicks in his shows (back to the How to Boil Water days).

I think I could eat sweet potato matchsticks all day.

Peruvian-Style Roast Chicken

Makes: 4 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 1 1/2 T paprika
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1 1/4 t pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/2 T white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 t canola oil
  • 2 large Vidalia onions, sliced thick (I substituted sweet onions)
  • 2 red or yellow bell peppers, cut into large chunks
  • 4 split chicken breasts
  • 1 lemon, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 425° F.

2. Grease a 9x13 inch pan.

3. In a small bowl, combine the paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, garlic, vinegar and oil to make a thick paste.

4. Place onions in a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the paste.

5. Rub chicken with remaining paste and place in pan. Cover with onions, peppers, and lemon.

6. Roast until chicken is cooked through, about 35 minutes.

7. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Sweet Potato Matchsticks

Makes: 4 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes


  • Oil, for frying
  • 2-3 large sweet potatoes
  • Cajun spice, to taste

1. Slice sweet potatoes into thin, flat sections on a mandoline. Turn the sections sideways and slice into matchsticks using the mandoline.

2. Place potatoes in a large bowl of ice water to remove any starch. Soak for a few minutes then rinse with cold water. Repeat until water is clear.

3. Drain matchsticks very well and dry on a towel. It is critical to remove as much water as you can.

4. Heat oil to 365° F in a Dutch oven or deep fryer.

5. Working in batches, fry the potatoes until crispy and golden, about 3 minutes. Remove to paper towels to drain.

6. Sprinkle with Cajun spices or salt to taste and serve.

For the Brussels sprouts, look here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta

This is similar to another recipe I've posted, Easy Chicken Alfredo, but I like this one better and it is very easy and quick to make. It's also like a blackened Cajun chicken recipe I have that I will post soon.

I really like the kick and cream sauce in this version. Serve this with garlic bread and a good green salad.

Makes: 2 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
  • 4 oz linguine, cooked al dente
  • 2 t Cajun seasoning
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 green onion, sliced thin
  • 1-2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 T sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t dried basil
  • 1/8 t ground black pepper
  • 1/8 t garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place chicken and Cajun seasoning in a bowl and toss to coat.

2. Sauté the chicken with butter in a large skillet over medium high heat until chicken is tender, about 5-7 minutes.

3. Reduce heat and add the remaining ingredients except the cheese and pasta.

4. Heat thoroughly. Server over pasta and top with cheese.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Oh my, these shrimp from Giada are so good! We did them up simple, just served over angel hair.

Trust me, you can't go wrong with these. Serve with a salad and garlic bread.

Makes: 2-4 servings (Being a shrimp addict, I think it's more like 2 servings!)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 1 pound large shrimp, cleaned, peeled and deveined
  • 1 t salt plus more to taste
  • 1 t dried red pepper flakes
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced
  • 1 (14 1/2 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 t dried oregano
  • 3 T fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 T fresh basil chopped

1. Toss the shrimp in a bowl with 1 tsp of salt and the red pepper flakes.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and saute for about a minute, toss, and continue cooking until just cooked, about 1-2 minutes.

3. Transfer the shrimp to a plate and reserve.

4. Add onion to skillet along with some more oil if needed. Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.

5. Add the tomatoes and their juices, wine, garlic, and oregano. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.

6. Add shrimp back to sauce and toss to coat. Heat for about 1 minute, stirring. Do not overcook the shrimp.

7. Add in parsley and basil. Add salt to taste and serve.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

French Lick Springs Hotel

We decided to take a 4-day weekend and head down to French Lick Springs, about 3 hours south, southeast from Indianapolis. Despite having grown up nearby, Anita has never been there. Nor had I.

What a fantastic hotel. Everything was just great, from the room to the atrium.

We ate at the 1875 restaurant in the hotel. The food and service was great. Anita had the filet, with broccolini and garlic mashed potatoes. I had the prime rib, broccolini and asparagus. Yum! (As a note, the sides are huge... Don't be afraid to share them!)

After dinner we walked down to the casino and played slots for a few hours.

I made sure that the girls from The Shining weren't in the hallway before we headed out. Just kidding... but it does kinda look like the same place as in the movie (the Overlook Hotel), doesn't it?

Fortunately, they do have a non-smoking section in the casino, and it's rather large. We didn't win, but we didn't lose much either.

We had a great time. We'll be returning again in warmer weather to walk the awesome grounds at the hotel, and to take in the nearby railroad museum. We'll also go to the nearby West Baden Springs Hotel.

On the way back home we decided to take the backroads and ended up hitting some fairly thick fog along the way. The fog was frozen to the trees and roads, making it more fun than I had bargained for. Still it was eerily beautiful.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Papa Roux Cajun Restaurant in Indianapolis

We stopped by Papa Roux on Thursday for lunch on our way to French Lick.

It was our first time eating there. Anita ordered the muffaletta and I had the shrimp po'boy. We cut them in half and traded halves. As soon as we both took a bite we looked up at each other and said at the same time "oh my, this is sooo good"!

So, on our way back home today we again stopped by and picked up two shrimp po'boys with coleslaw sides and a bag of Zapp's Voodoo Gumbo potato chips. We also picked up a pint each of red beans and rice, vegetarian étouffée and some vegetarian creole stew for dinner, later. We got everything to go since we were ready to head home and unpack from our trip (Anita will blog on our trip soon).

I could just keep on eating their shrimp po'boys. The remoulade sauce they make is insanely good. I'll post on tonight's dinner later. We couldn't stop ourselves at lunch, so we did try a quick taste of the red beans, étouffée and creole stew... Man, dinner is going to be good!

I can't wait to return and try more items on their menu.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Smoked Sausage and Sweet Corn Chowder

It's really hard to beat corn from My Dad's Sweet Corn, specially when it's married with some smoked sausage in a chowder!

The original recipe calls for using cream-style corn, but I substituted some sweet corn kernels I had in freezer from last year's farmer's market. I made a few other changes too.

Makes: 4 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 1 pound smoked sausage, fully cooked, cut into rounds on the bias
  • 1 cup green onion, sliced (plus more for garnish if desired)
  • 2 t oil
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups potatoes, diced
  • 2 1/2 cups (or 1 can) corn (cream-style or kernel)
  • 1/4 t red pepper, ground
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

1. Cook onions in oil over medium heat 3-4 minutes in a large saucepan.

2. Stir in sausage, broth, potatoes, corn and red pepper.

3. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer (B2BR2S as Chef Anne would say).

4. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.

5. Add cream and heat.

6. Garnish with additional green onions, if desired.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Broccoli with Cheddar Cheese Sauce

I found this recipe on the Whole Food's website and thought boy, that'd be good on a baker! So that's what I did!

Just bake your potatoes like you normally would then top with the broccoli and cheese sauce. Add bacon, salt and pepper, sour cream.. whatever other toppings you enjoy!

Makes: 6 servings (about enough for 3 large potatoes)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 6 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 t dry mustard
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I recommend Tillamook. Chez John got me hooked on it!)
  • White pepper, to taste

1. Steam the broccoli until crisp tender, about 4-5 minutes.

2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in flour, mustard and salt.

3. Gradually stir in milk, whisking over medium-low heat until thickened.

4. Add cheese, stirring until completely melted.

5. Season with white pepper.

6. Place broccoli over potatoes and cover with sauce.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Smoked Sausage and Peppers Sandwich

These might seem like your typical sausage and pepper sammies, but they have a nice BBQ sauce twist to them. Really outstanding eats!

I was thinking I'd eat mine like a sandwich as in the original recipe, but it fell apart on me. Next time, I'll serve it open-faced, and put toppings on both halves!

Makes: 4 sandwiches
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 pound smoked sausage, cut in half and then lengthwise
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 medium yellow onions, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 cup beer
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce (I used Grandma Foster's Hot and Spicy)
  • 4 slices Provolone cheese
  • 4 fresh sub rolls

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.

2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add sausages and brown on all sides, 7-8 minutes. Remove from skillet.

3. Add onions and peppers to skillet and saute until brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and saute another 3-4 minutes.

4. Stir in tomato paste, beer and BBQ sauce. Warm through then add sausages back to pan and simmer until sauce is thick, about 10 minutes.

5. Slice bread open, put on sheet tray and toast in oven. Remove, fill with sausages and toppings, top with cheese and serve.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cinnamon Caramel Corn

Needed a little something extra for the upcoming Superbowl, so we threw together this easy cinnamon caramel corn. I found the original recipe over on the Plain Chicken blog. Only changes I made were to up the amount of pecans (my dad gave us a few bags of his pecans when we visited at Christmas. They are sooooo good!) and I substituted Splenda brown sugar for regular brown sugar.

For the popcorn I used our Whirley-Pop stovetop popper and some Blue Heron popcorn from Fireworks Popcorn. We love their popcorn. They have a great variety, and the best thing is you don't need to put anything on it (well, unless you want cinnamon caramel corn!). Their popcorn is awesome just popped, right out of the bowl.

Makes: 12 cups, about 4 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 12 cups popped popcorn (about 1/2 cup of kernels, or 2 batches in the Whirley-Pop)
  • 1 cup pecan halves, roughly chopped (or 2 cups if you desire!)
  • 1 cup brown sugar Splenda
  • 3/4 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup karo syrup
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 250° F.

2. In a large bowl combine the popcorn and pecans.

3. In a separate microwave-safe bowl combine the brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut butter into chunks and place on top. Pour in syrup and microwave for 30 seconds, then stir to combine.

4. Return to microwave and heat for 2 more minutes. Remove (be careful as the bowl will be hot!) and stir and microwave for another 30 seconds.

5. Add in vanilla and baking soda and stir to combine until mixture has risen and is foamy.

6. Pour mixture over popcorn and mix very until the popcorn is well coated.

7. Spread popcorn mixture over foil-lined pan and place in oven. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10.

8. Cool and serve.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Chicken Scallopine with Saffron Cream Sauce and Saffron Orzo with Asparagus

Ok, I loaded up on the orzo when I plated. I really like orzo. I couldn't stop myself. We both enjoyed this recipe. Anything with a cream sauce is good, in my book.

The chicken scallopine is based on a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. The orzo is a take on a recipe from Epicurious.

Chicken Scallopine

Makes: 4 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 2 T oil
  • 4 chicken breasts, butterflied
  • 2 shallots, sliced (I had to sub red onion)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 t saffron threads, crushed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t fresh ground pepper
  • 3 T fresh chopped parsley

1. Warm oil in skillet over high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook until golden and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove and foil to keep warm.

2. Turn heat down to medium and add the shallot and garlic. Cook until tender, about 2 minutes.

3. Deglaze pan with wine and cook until wine is nearly completely evaporated.

4. Add broth and saffron, bring to a simmer and reduce for 10 minutes.

5. Add cream, salt and pepper. Stir and simmer for 1 minute.

6. Transfer chicken to serving plates and cover with sauce. Sprinkle with parsley.

Saffron Orzo with Asparagus

Makes: 4-6 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes


  • 2 T butter
  • 1 1/4 cups orzo
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 t saffron threads, crushed
  • 1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
  • Parmesan shavings, for garnish

1. Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add orzo and stir 1 minute.

2. Add broth and saffron. Bring to a bowl, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally until orzo is soft, about 8 minutes.

3. Add asparagus. Cover and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes.

4. Uncover and continue simmering until most of the liquid is absorbed. Mix in cheese and season.

5. Transfer to bowl and top with Parmesan shavings.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Chili Dog Nachos

Just in time for the Superbowl! What a great twist on a old classic!

This is based on a recipe by Rachael Ray.

Makes: 4 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 1 T oil
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • 2 hot dogs cut into 1/2" pieces (I may have used 3 hot dogs...)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 t Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 2 t ground cumin
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 10 oz cheddar, shredded (I used fresh grated Tillamook, and probably more like 12 oz)
  • Tortilla chips
  • Sour cream, salsa, scallions and more cheese for garnish, as desired

1. Add oil to skillet and brown crumbled beef. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add hot dogs to skillet and brown another 3 minutes.

3. Add onions, seasonings, Worcestershire, chili powder, and cumin, mix well, and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

4. Add tomato sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.

5. Preheat oven broiler.

6. Layer chips on a casserole dish or pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Top chips with meat mixture and the cheese. Melt cheese under broiler, about 2 minutes.

7. Serve with optional garnishes and extra chips.