I have previously mentioned I sometimes try to recreate a dish I had at a restaurant. Here is a good example. Lion Bridge Brewing Company, located in the Czech Village in Cedar Rapids, not only brews some tasty beers, but their kitchen creates some excellent food as well. The Mint and Beet Grilled Cheese is one of my wife Susan’s favorite sandwiches. The sandwich is described on their menu as “local roasted beets, mint oil, and warm goat cheese.” Susan has been begging me to recreate it.
I have, but with a few minor tweaks. First, we love beets and I didn’t think the original version had enough beets. Lion Bridge also dices the beets. I think the sandwich is more structurally sound if the beets are sliced. Secondly, they use mint oil while I used fresh mint. I believe the mint oil makes the flavors too pronounced. You want the mint to be subtle.
Here is what I did:
Roasted Beet, Goat Cheese, and Mint Grilled Cheese
1/2 pound roasted beets (2 medium sized beets)
1 sprig fresh mint (leaves only; about 12 leaves)
4 ounces plain goat cheese
4 slices sourdough bread sliced about 1/2 inch thick.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut tops and root tip from beets. Wash and place on a baking sheet. Roast beets for about one hour or until the beet is soft and can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Peel the beets when they are cool enough to handle. The skin should slip off relatively easily. Slice the beets into about 1/4 inch slices and set aside. The beets can be roasted ahead of time.
While the beets are roasting, set the goat cheese out to come to room temperature. Remove the leaves from a sprig of mint. Chop the leaves and slightly muddle the leaves in a small bowl. The muddling will release some of the mint oil from the leaves. Add the softened goat cheese and blend the cheese and leaves together so the mint leaves are well distributed. Set aside.
Heat griddle to medium-high heat.
Butter one side of each slice of bread. Spread one-half of the goat cheese and mint mixture on the non-buttered side of two of the slices of bread. Top the goat cheese with beets. Place the halves with the goat cheese and beets on the heated griddle facing up and top with the other slice of bread buttered side up. Grill until golden brown, about three minutes.
Sometimes I think I live in the wrong part of the country. I really do like living in Iowa for the most part, but there are times I really wish had access to fresh seafood. I love salmon and other fish. Lobster rolls? Yes, please! Oysters? I’ll take a bushel. And then there are crabs. Because I live in Iowa, fresh crab meat is hard to find, and when you do find it, it is pricey.
Crab season begins on the first of April on the east coast and runs through fall. This tends to bring the price down a bit, but it is still relatively expensive.
Crab can still be enjoyed here in the midwest. One of my favorite ways to do so is crab cakes. I like them because all the hard work is done for you when you sit down to eat.
My daughter and her boyfriend are vacationing on the East coast this summer. I’ve been told his main objective is to eat all the crab and lobster he can. Maybe they’ll bring home some fresh crab for me.
Here is what I do:
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 finely chopped scallions
½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper (approximately 1 small pepper)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 pound lump crab meat
½ cup panko
Oil for cooking
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Combine the eggs, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, Old Bay, salt, celery, scallions, red bell pepper, and parsley in a large bowl and mix well. Add the crab meat (be sure to check the meat for any hard and sharp cartilage or shell and remove) and panko. Gently fold mixture together until just combined, being careful not to shred the crab meat. Shape into 6 crab cakes using a ½ cup measuring cup and place on prepared baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat a large skillet to medium heat and coat with oil; no more than ¼ inch deep. When oil is hot, place crab cakes in pan and cook until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per side. Be careful as oil may splatter. Serve immediately with tartar sauce or my Chipotle Lime Sauce. Recipe follows below.
Note: Do not skip the refrigeration step. Refrigerating the cakes will help prevent them from falling apart during cooking.
Chipotle Lime Sauce
½ cup mayonnaise
1 canned chipotle chili in adobo sauce
1 tsp fresh lime juice
Puree mayonnaise, lime juice, and chipotle pepper in a small blender. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour; best if made the day before.
Asparagus will soon poke its delicious little spears from the cool earth giving us one more sign it’s spring. There are few things I look forward to in spring more than the fresh, herbaceous taste of freshly cut asparagus. Well, maybe morel mushrooms, but that’s another recipe.
I love how this recipes takes advantage of asparagus and eggs pair well. One of my favorite side dishes is grilled asparagus topped with a poached egg. Because of this, I prefer a medium boiled egg with the yolk still slightly soft in the middle; about a 6 minute boil, but feel free to use a harder set yolk.
This recipe uses my Quick Pickled Red Onions. You will need about 10 to 15 minutes of active cooking time and at least 30 minutes of resting time to prepare them. These store wonderfully for about a month in the refrigerator and are great on so many things. The recipe can be found here: Quick Pickled Red Onions.
Boiled Egg, Seared Asparagus, and Pickled Onion Sandwiches
Makes 2 sandwiches
2 eggs, medium or hard boiled (your preference)
2 demi baguette loaves (may use one regular baguette cut in half)
½ a bunch of asparagus spears (about 15-20 spears)
Fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil (approximately, plus more to brush on baguette)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Pickled red onion (see Quick Pickled Red Onions recipe link in above introduction)
Spritz of lemon juice
Boil the eggs to your desired preference, peel and set aside.
Meanwhile, split two demi baguettes in half and remove a little of the doughy center so the asparagus and egg can fit inside. (The bread that is removed would be wonderful to toss with a bit of olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper then toasted for croutons if you serve a salad with this sandwich.) Brush a little olive oil on each half and toast the bread lightly.
Trim the asparagus by removing the woody ends. Then slice the spears in half length–wise as best you can and place in a large bowl. Drizzle some olive oil over the asparagus and then sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Heat a large skillet over high heat and sear the asparagus spears, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. The asparagus will become a darker green and should begin to char in spots.
Place ½ of the asparagus on the bottom half of bread then top with one egg and pickled onion. Spread Dijon mustard on top half of bread and then sprinkle with dill. Spritz a little lemon all over the interior of the sandwich. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat for other sandwich and serve with crisp salad.
I used what I call the cover method to baste these eggs in heavy cream and butter.
Knob of unsalted butter and a tablespoon or so of heavy cream with fresh thyme leaves.
Shirred eggs? Ain’t nobody got thyme for that.
I was hungry for shirred eggs this morning but didn’t want to take the time to heat the oven for just two eggs. Shirred eggs are delicious and a great way to cook eggs if you are serving a group. Click here for my Shirred Eggs Recipe.
I began to wonder if I could achieve a similar result without the oven. Using a skillet and a method of basting an egg that I call the cover method, I came up with what I believe is a very tasty egg. To truly baste an egg you would ideally use bacon drippings to gently baste the eggs. With the cover method, I simply crack the eggs into a lightly oiled non-stick skillet along with a tablespoon of water and cover. The water will essentially steam the eggs giving a very similar result as basting.
Drop a knob of softened, unsalted butter in the center of a cold 7″ non-stick skillet. You want to start with a cold skillet so the cream comes up to temperature slowly and does not immediately curdle. Crack two eggs in skillet and add a tablespoon or so of heavy cream. Sprinkle fresh thyme leaves over the eggs, cover and turn burner on to medium. Resist the temptation to look at eggs for four minutes. Check eggs after four minutes and check to see how well the egg whites and yolk are set.
Plate eggs when yolks are set to your desired doneness. Drizzle any remaining cream and butter left in pan over eggs and serve.
Pickled red onions are a great condiment to have on hand. Add them to your favorite sandwich, use them on tacos, or add them to a salad. They provide a nice tanginess to food without quite a strong onion taste. They only take about 15 minutes of active prep time and will last stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Quick Pickled red onions
1 quart water
1 medium red onion
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 small clove of garlic, halved
4 or 5 black peppercorns
4 or 5 allspice berries
2 or 3 small springs of thyme
Bring 1 quart water to a boil. Meanwhile peel and slice the onions into no wider than ¼-inch rings. Peel and cut the garlic clove in half. Pour the vinegar into a one-pint mason jar or other suitable glass container. Add the sugar and salt to the vinegar and stir or shake to dissolve. Then add the garlic, peppercorns, allspice berries, and thyme sprigs.
Place the sliced onion rings in a sieve and place the sieve in the sink. Slowly pour the boiling water over the onions. Let the onions drain and cool slightly in the sink. Add the onions to the jar and stir gently to evenly distribute the flavorings.
The onions will be ready in about 30 minutes, but only get better with time. Store the onions in the refrigerator. They will keep for for close to a month in the refrigerator properly sealed.
Rice cooked in milk will have the consistency of a creamy risotto and the rice will also have the same firm al dente feel of a properly cooked risotto.
Rice cooked in milk served with a topping of sugar and cinnamon.
My favorite foods are the comfort foods my mother cooked for me when I was a child. These were simple foods, yet the feeling of them in my tummy then and the memories of love now, make them the foods I would give anything to have prepared one more time by my mother. Some were so simple I never bothered to ask my mother how they were made. My mother passed away nearly eight years ago, and with her went many recipes I’ll never have.
I started this blog five years ago for several reasons. One, because I started getting requests from friends to share the recipes of the food I was making. Two, I wanted to use it myself as a personal cook book or as an electronic recipe box where I could have all my recipes in one place. Most importantly though, I started this for my children so they would have the recipes of all their favorite foods after I was gone.
I share this recipe on Good Friday at the end of the Lenten season; Lent ended yesterday on Holy Thursday. My mother made this simple meal often during Lent when I was a child and it was one of my favorites. She would serve the rice with hard boiled eggs. The rice was topped with sugar and cinnamon making it a sweet treat for our evening meal. Rice and eggs seems like an odd combination, but it was actually quite ingenious. Although the meal was simple, it filled you up and was packed with protein.
This recipe is so easy. It is only three ingredients, yet I could never figure out how mom made this feel-good meal. I’ve come to realize that sometimes a recipe isn’t so much what goes in it, but rather the technique used to make it. The trick with this recipe is to add the milk in stages, not all at once.
Here is what I did:
Rice Cooked in Milk
1 cup long grain rice
¼ tsp salt
4 cups whole milk (Approximately)
Begin by combining 1 cup of milk, rice, and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a low boil/simmer on medium heat stirring frequently. Once boiling, turn heat down to medium – low and cover. Keep a watchful eye on the rice and milk to prevent the milk cooking away and burning. As the rice absorbs the milk, keep adding milk ½ cup at a time until the rice becomes tender. Continue stirring frequently during this time until the rice is done which takes about 35 to 40 minutes. You want a very thick, creamy consistency to the rice and the rice to be tender yet still have a bit of a firm al dente bite.
Let cool a few minutes and then serve with sugar and cinnamon.
I am not a big fan of chicken or should I say I am not a big fan of chicken breast. I find chicken breast to be bland and uninspiring. Another reason I really don’t care for chicken is because it just doesn’t taste like it used to. Unfortunately, American agriculture has ruined chicken. But this is another discussion I really don’t want to get into now. All I will say in this limited space is chickens need to be free to run. A happy chicken is a tasty chicken.
This recipe utilizes boneless, skinless chicken thighs which on today’s chicken have much more flavor than the breast. It is also a simple recipe that comes together quickly. In just a little over an hour you can have a flavorful dinner on the table.
Here is what I did:
Rosemary and Mustard Chicken Thighs
1½ – 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (The happier the chicken the better.)
½ cup Dijon mustard (Do not use anything except Dijon, not even country style Dijon.)
¼ cup 100% pure maple syrup (No pancake syrup. 100% pure maple syrup only.)
2 tablespoon champagne wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Leaves from one small sprig fresh rosemary for garnish
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
In small bowl, whisk together Dijon mustard, maple syrup, champagne wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
Place the chicken thighs in an 8 x 8 inch baking dish. They will overlap some. Then pour the mixture on top of the thighs. Move the chicken around in the sauce to make sure all the thighs get coated.
Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the oven and transfer thighs to serving platter making sure to keep as much of the mustard sauce as possible in the baking dish.
Immediately after removing chicken thighs, whisk in the 1 tbsp. of cornstarch into the liquid in the pan. You may need to add another teaspoon or so of cornstarch if the sauce is not thickening, though be patient. Stir in rosemary. Drizzle over chicken after sauce thickens.
Beet and black bean burger topped with a raw goat milk cheddar cheese.
Beet and black bean burger dressed with sprouts.
Beet and black bean burgers prior to being cooked.
I have been called a “weekday vegetarian” and I don’t mind. Too often, as soon as one says they are vegetarian, we become tense and feel we need to defend our decision. We feel personally attacked. Meat eaters are accused of doing wrong and vegetarians are labeled self-righteous. In my opinion, choosing to eat or not eat meat should not be an all or nothing decision.
I’m not sure if I truly am a weekend vegetarian; I really like meat. I do know that my meat consumption has decreased considerably over the last several years and not because I consciously set out to do so with the idea that I was going to make a difference in the world. The difference I did make was more personal. My creativity in the kitchen has exploded as I discover more ways to prepare a wider variety of foods. My nutritional knowledge has improved. My health has improved and yes, I am making better decisions at the meat counter. Since I buy less meat, I can buy better meat and again, a wider variety.
We could discuss this further, but let’s move to this tasty recipe. Roasted beets and black beans combine to make a filling burger with a great smokey taste and a satisfying texture.
Roasted beets and goat cheese are often paired together because the tanginess of the goat cheese balances the sweetness of the beets. So when I first thought of making these burgers I knew I wanted to top them with a goat cheese. A soft goat cheese I felt would be too difficult on a veggie burger; which is already much softer than a regular burger. I didn’t think it would hold up well. I found a sharp cheddar cheese made with raw goat’s milk that provided the tanginess I wanted yet did not compound the veggie burger’s softer texture.
The ingredients I have listed make for a vegetarian veggie burger. They can easily be made vegan simply by eliminating the egg and omitting the cheese.
I also topped this burger with some tender bitter greens and alfalfa sprouts.
I’m not going to lie. This recipe takes quite a bit of time to come together, and I find it best to do it over two days, but they are so worth it. The great thing about these burgers is that they freeze very well. You can easily double this recipe and freeze the extra burgers for another meal. If you do choose to freeze them, I suggest first placing them on a flat cooking sheet in the freezer for a few hours before packaging them with foil or waxed paper separating the individual patties. It will make taking out one or two at a time much easier when you need them.
Here is what I did:
Beet and black bean burgers
2 medium red beets (about ½ pound)
1/3 cup brown rice (uncooked)
2 (15.5-ounce) cans black beans
3 tablespoons dried minced onion
1 teaspoon dried minced garlic
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons course ground brown mustard
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 large egg (leave out for vegan burgers)
¾ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
Fresh ground pepper
Thin slices of goat milk sharp cheddar cheese (or other tangy cheese)
Roast the Beets:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Trim tops and root tips from the beets. Fit a cooling rack inside a baking sheet and place beets on rack. Roast until easily pierced with a fork, about 50 to 60 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, bring about 1 ½ quarts of generously salted water to a rolling boil. Add the rice, stir, cover, and return the rice to a boil over medium high heat. Continue to cook the rice about 20 to 25 more minutes until the rice is tender yet still firm. Remove from heat and drain the excess water. Then run the coldest water you can get from the tap over the rice. This will help stop the cooking process and also cool the rice. Allow the rice to completely drain so it does not absorb any additional water. Set aside and allow rice to completely cool. (This may be done the day before and refrigerated.)
Grate the Roasted Beets: Use the edge of a spoon or a paper towel to scrape the skins off the cooled roasted beets; the skins should slip off easily. Grate the peeled beets on the largest holes of a box grater. Transfer the beet gratings to a strainer set over the sink. Press and squeeze the beet gratings to remove as much liquid as possible from the beets. Allow beets to drip freely until adding them to the mixture and to further reduce water content.
The Veggie Burger Mix:
Drain and rinse both cans of beans. Transfer the beans to a food processor and pulse in 1-second bursts just until the beans are roughly chopped — you do not want the beans to become mush — 8 to 10 pulses. Transfer beans to a large mixing bowl. Add the shredded beets, cooked rice, dried onions and garlic, smoked paprika, mustard, cumin, coriander, and thyme to the bowl with the beans. Mix all the ingredients until combined. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste. Add egg and mix well. Finally, add oats and mix until you no longer see any dry oatmeal.
Loosely cover the bowl with wax paper or foil and refrigerate over night. The mix can also be kept refrigerated for up to three days before cooking.
Making the Burgers:
Scoop up about a scant cup of the burger mixture and shape it between your palms into a thick patty the size of your hamburger buns. You should end up with 6 large patties approximately 6 ounces each.
Heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat. Add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil to completely coat the bottom of the pan. Cook the patties for 3 to 4 minutes, then flip them. There should be a good crust formed on the cooked side. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 4 more minutes until the patties are warmed through. Place a slice of cheese over the burgers in the last minute or two of cooking if you’re adding it.
Serve the veggie burgers on a firm, lightly toasted burger buns with some fresh greens. Sprouts are also very tasty topping these burgers.
Because of the tendency for veggie burger to sometimes fall apart, you will probably be more successful cooking these indoors in a cast iron skillet. However, I have been successful cooking these on an outdoor grill by simply using a flat cast iron griddle on my gas grill. A large cast iron skillet would also work on a grill.
Guilty pleasures. We all have them. When it comes to food, I have a number of them, but I attribute one directly to my mother.
My mother was a wonderful cook who fed us well. She took a lot of pride in creating healthy, honest food for us. She seldom purchased pre-packaged foods and made most things from scratch. Sure there was Campbell’s cream of tomato soup with grilled cheese for a quick lunch during busy times, but my mother would never use Hamburger Helper or that blue box of macaroni and cheese. What she would buy though were frozen pot pies. Specifically, Banquet frozen tuna pot pies. I loved them! My sister loved them. My father would eat two when she made them.
I can’t quite figure out why a mother would refuse to buy Kraft Macaroni and Cheese because “her kids were never going to eat out of a box” yet she had no problem buying tuna pot pies.
Banquet stopped production of the tuna pot pie at some point. They still make chicken, beef, and turkey, but they are not nearly as good. My mother tried her hand at making her own tuna pot pie but, like all the other recipes I have found, it was very dry and the flavor just wasn’t there. Banquet tuna pot pies had a very gooey, saucy filling with just the right tuna, peas, and carrot ratio. Swanson had a tuna pot pie, but I did not care for them, mainly because Swanson decided to forgo the bottom crust and only had a top crust. They too stopped production around the same time.
For years, I have been on mission to recreate this bit of childhood comfort food, my guilty pleasure. All the recipes I found did not have that sauciness or were made using cans of gloppy, salt laden cream of mushroom soup. They certainly did not taste like the Banquet tuna pot pies I remember. After many trials and errors, I believe I have come up with a recipe for a tuna pot pie that rivals the taste and saucy filling I remember.
Here is what I did:
Tuna Pot Pie
Pie crust (top and bottom crust for one 9 inch or two 5 inch pies)
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup all purpose flour (30 grams)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup whole milk
1 bay leaf
2 5 ounce cans tuna (drained)
2 ounces sliced Pimiento peppers
1 cup frozen mixed peas and carrots
Fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Melt butter in 2 quart sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly and takes on a nutty aroma; approximately 5 minutes. Slowly stir in vegetable broth and then milk. Add bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Heat, stirring frequently, until thickened and just beginning to bubble. Remove from heat. Stir in tuna, then Pimiento peppers, then frozen peas and carrots. Taste and season accordingly with salt and pepper.
Roll out bottom pie crust to fit either one 9 inch pie pan or two 5 inch pie pans. Place bottom crust in pie pan(s). Remove bay leaf and spoon filling into bottom crust. Roll out top crust and gently place crust over filling; fold edge under and crimp, sealing to bottom crust. Cut slits in top crust. Bake 15 minutes at 450°F. Reduce heat to 350°F and continue baking another 30 to 35 minutes. If crust is getting too brown, cover pies with aluminum foil.
Remove from oven and let cool 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
The pilaf method of cooking rice begins on the stovetop and finishes in the oven. However there may be times when this is not practical: you have the oven heated higher than a safe temperature for the rice, you aren’t using the oven for any other reason and don’t want the extra heat in the house, or you simply just don’t have time for that. (I include the directions for a traditional pilaf at the end of the recipe and do suggest trying it sometime as the rice ends up just a bit firmer and not as sticky.)
You will need to use a saucepan that can safely go from stovetop to oven. Also, be sure to keep a close eye on the pilaf if you are putting it in the oven because it can quickly burn.
Lime Rice Pilaf
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 cups long grain white rice
3 ¾ cups vegetable or chicken stock
Grated zest from one lime
Juice from one lime
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
(Preheat oven to 350°F if using the oven method.)
Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until tender, about 10 minutes.
Add rice and stir to coat. Add stock, lime juice and lime peel. Bring to a boil. (See oven method below if you choose.) Reduce to a simmer, stir, cover, and cook until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in cilantro and season with salt to taste. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with cilantro.
After the rice comes to a boil in the above steps, thoroughly wet a clean kitchen towel, remove saucepan from heat, and then place the towel across the top of the pan. Fit the pan with a lid and then fold the towel corners up over the lid. Then, transfer the saucepan, towel and all, to the oven and bake 15 minutes. Remove and rest at room temperature for 15 more minutes without opening the lid.
Finally, stir in cilantro and season with salt to taste. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with cilantro.