Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Black Pine Animal Sanctuary

We decided to take about a 2 hour road trip today, up to the Black Pine Animal Sanctuary in Albion, IN. I prefer to take the side roads for these trips. You can't see much at 70 MPH on the interstate, and what you do see usually isn't worth the time. Plus, there's more traffic.

The ride up was easy, traffic-free, and scenic. And you couldn't beat the 70 degree weather.

The Black Pine Animal Sanctuary rescues mostly exotic animals, of all kinds. We were the first ones there when they opened today. First off we bought some crackers so Anita could go feed some of the animals.

The rhea and llamas both enjoyed the food, as did the goats, deer, ostrich, and other animals. My favorite of these was of course the pig.

Here are just a few of the animals we saw. Going to the sanctuary isn't like going to the zoo, where you can feel very separated from the animals. This felt like a very personal experience.

One in particular, Luna, the Bengal tiger, was very agitated when we were there. There was work being done near her pen, and she wasn't very happy about it. She's also had a very rough life, having been mistreated by her previous owners.

Luna seemed to take issue with me in particular. Maybe it's the beard. Or the hat. Or maybe I smelled like roast beef. I'm not sure what it was, but when I approached the fence she started huffing and running back and forth. She then jumped up on the fence. Let me tell you, our hearts skipped a few beats. She's a big, majestic cat. I'd guess she was 10 feet tall standing. Or maybe 6. It was hard to measure stuff accurately at that point.

But no worries. All the animals at the sanctuary are well treated and can now live without fear.

If you are near Albion (about 25 miles northwest of Fort Wayne), we recommend you stop by. And help the sanctuary out if you can. They are doing valuable work, giving homes to retired circus animals and those that have had hard lives.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Stone Creek Dining Company, Noblesville Indiana

We were up at Hamilton Town Center, about 10 miles from here, today to do a little shopping and grab some lunch and a movie.

We stopped by the Stone Creek Dining Company, a place that has been on my must visit list for a long time. We are so glad we did. For us, a great lunch can make the day.

First, the place is nice. Comfy seating and atmosphere. Our waitress, Eden, was really nice.

We ordered the spinach artichoke dip for openers. While we were waiting for that we were served bread and a dipping oil that was very good. We inquired about its ingredients and we'll soon be trying to duplicate it. They also sell it by the bottle. It's a great blend of sun dried tomatoes and red pepper flakes, among other things.

Then came the dip. Outstanding. Served with grilled focaccia bread, the dip really tasted so fresh. So many times when you order spinach and artichoke dip it is over blended to the point where you lose the texture. Not the case at Stone Creek. The dip had inviting chunks of artichoke and tomatoes. It really was outstanding.

Anita ordered the turkey Reuben with a roasted tomato cous cous. The turkey was fresh and moist, and the cous cous had a great multi-layered flavor. I ordered the corned beef Reuben with slaw. The corned beef was super tender. The sign of a good Reuben for me is that you have to use a lot of napkins. This was a good Reuben. And the slaw was obviously fresh made. Crunchy and tasty.

We can't wait to return for another meal. We enjoyed the great food and excellent service.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cajun Potatoes

I bought some Cajun Power Cajun seasoning and figured I'd give it a try on simple roasted potatoes.

Cajun Power also makes an awesome garlic sauce you can put on just about anything.

You can substitute any type of Cajun or creole seasoning. Even Old Bay works great for these.

Makes: 4 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 4-6 russet potatoes (or 10-12 red potatoes)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 t Cajun seasoning (I used Cajun Power)
  • 1 t dried parley flakes (or 1 T fresh chopped)

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Spray a 9x11 glass baking dish with non-stick spray.

3. Peel potatoes and cut into chunks.

4. Place potatoes in dish in a single layer.

5. Sprinkle with oil and add seasoning and parsley. Stir well to coat.

6. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

7. Remove foil, stir, and bake uncovered for 15 more minutes until soft.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Rainbow Bacon

Yep, you heard right. Rainbow bacon burgers. A friend emailed me the original story. I just had to try it out. Though the story doesn't say how to make these, I figured I'd just use food coloring.

I used your standard grocery story-bought food colorings. I may swing by a cake store tomorrow to see if they have other brighter colors. It seems like the brighter colors do better.

They do make a burger more baconlicious.

Makes: 8 slices
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes (plus 4 hours setup in fridge)


  • 8 slices bacon
  • Food coloring
  • Rubber gloves (optional, but not a bad idea)

1. Place bacon in glass dishes.

2. Drip 6-8 drops of food coloring on each slice and spread using rubber gloves. You need only color one side.

3. Cover dish with plastic wrap and let set in fridge for at least for hours for the colors to sink in.

4. Place bacon on a foil-lined sheet pan. Place in oven and turn to 400° F. Do not preheat the oven.

5. Let cook 15-25 minutes. The cook time depends on how quickly your oven comes up to temperature. Start checking after 15 minutes. Remove to paper-towel lined plate when done.

Swedish Sweet Mustard

I was looking for something different to put on our grilled dogs. I ran across this recipe from Tyler Florence.

This mustard would also work just fine as a dipping sauce for fries.

Makes: 1 cup
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 day (in the fridge)
Printable Recipe


  • 1/2 cup dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • Pinch white pepper
  • 2 T white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Blend all ingredients in a blender for 1 minute. Wipe down the sides of the blender with a spatula and blend again for 30 more seconds.

2. Place in a glass container. Cover and refrigerate for at least a day.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pulled Pork Nachos

We had a few pounds of smoked pulled pork leftover from last weekend's smoke, so we made some nachos. Very simple to make, and really delicious.

I'd like to try this with smoked brisket sometime, too.

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


  • Tortilla chips
  • 1 lb pulled pork, chopped (or pulsed in a blender)
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 small can black olives
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded (I used Tillamook)
  • 1 large jalapeƱo, sliced
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped
  • Sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.

2. Spray large baking sheet with non-stick spray.

3. Cover bottom of baking sheet with chips.

4. Spoon beans over chips. Then cover with pork. Sprinkle with cheddar. Add the jalapeƱos and olives.

5. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.

6. Sprinkle with green onions and tomato and serve with sour cream.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dick's Bodacious BBQ

A friend/co-worker and I recently had lunch at Dick's Bodacious BBQ in Noblesville. It's about a 20 minute drive from here, but worth the trip.

We each ordered the Texas Two Step, which is a choice of two meats and two sides. I had the brisket, smoked sausage, fried okra and slaw. My friend had the pulled pork, smoked sausage, slaw and potato salad.

I have to say I love the smoked sausage at Dick's. And actually, the brisket is pretty good too. The pulled pork was a touch dry, but still good.

Dick's has good portion sizes and decent service. My only complaint (and it's a minor one) is that I wish the sauce was on the table. I know that's more expensive for a place to do, but I like to try different sauces without having to bug the wait staff for it.

There used to be a Dick's BBQ down on 96th street near where I worked then. I used to go there quite often. I was an official, card-carrying member of Dick's Pit Sniffers Club!

If you're in the Indy area, drive on up to Dick's (or visit their downtown location). You'll be glad you did!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chicken Satay with Peanut-Coconut Sauce

The dipping sauce for these grilled chicken satays is outstanding. I doubled the sauce portion of the recipe.

I made these again a few nights later using pork instead. The original idea came from this recipe.

Makes: 6 servings
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 10 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 T fresh lime juice
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 T brown sugar
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 2 lbs chicken breast, cut into 1" chunks
  • Skewers

1. Mix all but the chicken in a bowl. Remove 3/4 of the mixture and place in refrigerator.

2. Place chicken pieces in remaining sauce. Coat well. Place in refrigerator for 1 hour.

3. Soak skewers (if using bamboo) in water.

4. Discard marinade. Remove remaining sauce from fridge and let warm to room temperature while cooking the chicken.

5. Heat grill to medium high. Place chicken onto skewers and grill, rotating once, until done, about 10 minutes.

6. Serve chicken with sauce for dipping.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Koolickles (Kool-Aid Pickles)

No, there wasn't an accident at the Claussen factory!

These are Koolickles. They're super easy to make and kids (and even adults) love them. You can use any flavor Kool-Aid you want. I chose cherry.

I also used pickle halves instead of whole pickles, like I've seen others use when making this. These pictures were taken after 3 days of soaking.

Makes: 1 jar
Cook time: 1-5 days
Printable Recipe


  • 1 jar dill pickle halves
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 envelopes cherry Kool-Aid mix

1. Drain the liquid from the pickle jar. Reserve for making pucker pops (just freeze on popsicle sticks).

2. In a bowl, mix the Kool-Aid, water and sugar. Pour into jar and re-seal.

3. Refrigerate for 1-5 days. Serve.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shrimp with Tequila-Mayo Dip

This is a really easy-to-make shrimp recipe. The mayo dip is outstanding, and could be used with veggies or chips too.

I used Louisiana Shrimp Boil when I made this. I also like Zatarain's.

The original recipe came from Andrea Robinson's show, Pairings with Andrea, that used to air on the Fine Living network.

Makes: 4-6 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 2 lbs 16-20 count wild caught Gulf shrimp, shell on
  • 2 T crab boil
  • 1 lemon, sliced thin
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 t liquid smoke

For the dip:

  • 1 1/2 cups mayo
  • 2 T tequila (optional)
  • 1/2 t garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring water, crab boil, lemon, celery and liquid smoke to a boil.

2. Simmer for 5 minutes and add the shrimp.

3. Return mixture to a boil and simmer until the shrimp are opaque, 4-5 minutes.

4. Remove pan from heat and leave shrimp in water for 5 more minutes.

5. Drain and let cool slightly. Serve with dipping sauce.

6. To make the dipping sauce, combine all ingredients.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Red Radish Salad

Not too long ago I was able to get some just-picked radishes at our local farmer's market. I hunted around and ended up making this recipe that was very easy and tasty.

If you don't have any fresh dill on hand you can substitute dried.

Makes: 4 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 2 t sugar (or Splenda)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (light is fine)
  • 8 radishes, sliced thin
  • 2 Delicious apples, cored, quartered, and sliced thin
  • 1/2 seedless cucumber, sliced thin
  • 2 T chopped fresh dill (or 2 t dried)

1. Combine the sugar, lemon juice, and sour cream in a bowl.

2. Add the radishes, apples, and cucumber. Mix well to coat.

3. Season with salt, pepper, and dill and toss. Serve.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Smoked Bacon-Wrapped Tater Tots

This idea came from a great friend of ours, Chez John. Everything he makes will make you drool!

You can make these on a grill if you don't have a smoker. Trust me, these won't last long.

There's a variation on this recipe on the Dizzy Pig website. I found that I didn't need to thaw the tater tots first, and that I didn't need toothpicks to hold the bacon on. Just let the bacon warm up a little so it just naturally wants to stick to itself when wrapped around the tater tots. Use a fatty, thin bacon. If you use a thick cut bacon you will probably have to follow the recipe from Dizzy Pig.

Makes: 4-8 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30-45 minutes
Printable Recipe


1. Cut bacon into 3 equal sized pieces.

2. Wrap bacon around tater tots.

3. Sprinkle with BBQ rub.

4. Place on a 350 degree smoker and cook until the bacon starts to crisp, 30-45 minutes. Alternatively, place on a grill and cook using indirect heat until done.

5. Serve and enjoy!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Grilled Banana Sundae


Makes: 2 servings
Cook time: 10 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 2 bananas, not overly ripe
  • Chocolate chips
  • Chopped nuts
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Strawberry syrup
  • Whipped cream or ice cream
  • Cherries

1. Insert knife into skin of banana and cut lengthwise without cutting all the way through the banana. You just want to create a slit in the banana.

2. Open the slit in the bananas and sprinkle in chocolate chips and nuts. Drizzle with chocolate syrup.

3. Place bananas on a medium-high grill and grill until well browned. The interior will still be slightly firm.

4. Remove from grill and top with whipped cream or ice cream, more nuts, and cherries. Drizzle with chocolate and strawberry syrup and serve.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hobnob Corner Restaurant, Nashville, Indiana

We spent last weekend in Brown County, Indiana, at the Brown County Inn. It is one of our favorite places to go to relax and swim and shop. And eat.

One of our favorite places to eat is in downtown Nashville. The Hobnob Corner Restaurant started out life in 1873 as a dry goods store. It later became a drugstore and soda fountain.

It maintains some of that history and character today.

We've eaten at Hobnob many times and have always had great food and service. On our most recent visit I had the Rube Martin, a great variation on a Reuben sandwich. Anita had the spicy chicken sandwich, which was very good. You can see their menu here.

If you're in the Nashville area, swing by and enjoy a meal at Hobnob. If it's tourist season, you might have to wait a bit if you're going during peak hours. But it's worth it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Roasted Poblano Potato Salad

I am always on the lookout for a good, kicked-up potato salad recipe. I've found a few that call for roasted poblanos, but this one is by far our favorite.

The original recipe came from Dr. BBQ's book, Barbecue All Year Long. I highly recommend you pick up a copy. We have made several recipes from the book and they have all been great.

The poblanos at our local grocery were not so fresh the day we were there, so I substituted Anaheims. I'm not always sure about what I can substitute for what, so I visit FoodSubs to find out. Good thing our grocery store has free WiFi.

Makes: 8-12 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 4 poblano chiles
  • 2 pounds red potatoes
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

1. Heat your great to high heat. Place the poblanos on the grill and cook until they start to blacken and blister. Turn over until all sides are blackened. Remove from heat and put into a large baggie, close, and let steam in the bag for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, place the eggs in a pot of water. Bring to a boil and let boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and rinse with cold water until the eggs have cooled. Remove from shells and quarter the eggs.

3. Remove peppers from the bags and remove the burned parts of the skins. Cut open and remove the seeds and stems. Cut into 1/2" strips.

4. Wash the potatoes and put into a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Continue boiling until the potatoes are knife tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and rinse with cold water. Quarter the potatoes, place in a large bowl, and toss with the vinegar.

5. Into the bowl containing the potatoes add the onion, cilantro, eggs, and chiles. Toss gently.

6. Add the mayo and toss again. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add more mayo if the mixture is too dry.

7. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Chewy Wine Shots

These adult Jello treats are great for parties.

We started going crazy with shapes. Just use your own imagination and cookie cutters! The original recipe came from Michael Smith of the Chef at Home show, one of my favorites from Canada.

We used only red and white wine. The basic recipe is 3 envelopes of gelatin and 1 cup of sugar per bottle of wine.

I used a bottle of Soft Rose from Oliver Winery near Bloomington, Indiana, and a bottle of Seyval Blanc from the Buck Creek Winery just east of Indianapolis.

Makes: 12-16 servings (depending on the crowd!)
Prep time: 2 hours
Printable Recipe


  • 1 bottle (750 ml) red wine
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) white wine
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) pink zinfadel
  • 9 envelopes of unflavored gelatin
  • 3 cups sugar or Splenda

1. Pour each bottle of wine into a separate saucepan.

2. Add the sugar and 3 envelopes of gelatin. Stir over low heat until the sugar and gelatin dissolve.

3. Pour each mixture into a separate, lightly oiled, 8" x 8" pan and place in the fridge until set.

4. To remove jello from the pan, slide a knife around the edges of the pan. Then, dip the pan into warm water and invert.

5. Cut into shapes and serve.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Grilled Smoked Sausage Reuben

I love Reubens. I had some leftover Thousand Island dressing, so I just had to make this twist on the old classic.

Don't be afraid of using smoked sausage instead of corned beef! Anita doesn't like corned beef, so this worked out great for us.

The original recipe calls for chopping the sausage. I prefer it halved.

Makes: 4 sandwiches
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 1 (1 lb) package of smoked sausage
  • 8 slices rye bread
  • 4 T butter, softened
  • 16 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 pound sauerkraut, drained
  • 1/4 cup Thousand Island dressing

1. Grill sausage per package instructions. Let cool slightly and cut into half, then cut each half length-wise.

2. Butter one side of 4 slices of the bread. Place bread butter-side down in a sheet pan on the grill. Optionally, you can do this on your stove-top in a large skillet.

3. Top each slice of bread with a slice of Swiss, two slices of sausage, some kraut, the dressing, and another slice of cheese.

4. Butter one side of the remaining 4 slices of bread and top each sandwich with the bread, butter side up.

5. Cook sandwich until bread is browned, then flip and cook other side until browned.

6. Remove from grill and slice in half. Serve.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Watermelon Smile

Ain't she cute? We were at the grocery store the other day and just could not pass up getting a watermelon and a cantaloupe. It was a hot day, and nothing beats ice cold melon on a hot day!

We found the idea for the smile on the National Watermelon Promotion Board's website. It was actually pretty easy to make, even considering that I can't draw at all.

Prep time: 15-25 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 1 watermelon (pick one that that is fairly round)
  • 2 cantaloupes
  • 1 honey dew melon
  • Pumpkin carving tools

1. Cut the top (about 1") off the watermelon. Draw 2 flowers on the lid and cut out with a pumpkin carving tool. If you have a flower cookie cutter, use that instead of free hand drawing the flowers.

2. Cut enough off the bottom of the watermelon so it stands up straight and doesn't rock back and forth.

3. Use a melon balling tool to scoop out all of the watermelon into a large bowl. Scrape out any remaining watermelon and reserve for later snacking.

4. Hand trace the eyes and smile on the watermelon and cut out using the carving tool.

5. Cut open and seed the honey dew and cantaloupes. Scoop out balls of the fruit using the melon balling tool and place in the bowl with the watermelon balls.

6. Mix the fruit balls together and place in the hollowed out watermelon.

7. Poke toothpicks through the watermelon flowers, leaving about 1/2" sticking out. Attach the flowers to the sides of the watermelon and place melon balls on the ends of the toothpicks.

8. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Homemade Thousand Island Dressing

Oh, this dressing is sooooo good!

We put it on a simple iceberg salad. Fantastic! It's also great on a Reuben!

I found this recipe on the Food for the Thoughtless blogsite.

Makes: 3 cups
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup chili sauce
  • 1/4 cup pimientos, drained and chopped
  • 1 large egg, hard-boiled, chopped, and sieved
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 3 T dill pickles, finely chopped
  • 2 T capers, drained
  • Tabasco sauce to taste

1. Combine all but the Tabasco sauce in a medium sized bowl.

2. Add Tabasco to taste.

3. Refrigerate. Use within 3-4 days.