Friday, February 5, 2016

Messy, Yummy Cuban Sandwich with Rice and Black Beans

The weather in January never seems to be very good - no matter where someone is. At the beginning of the month, Jenn and Allison left the Northern Hemisphere for another round of adventure, so Roy and I traveled down to the Florida Keys. I know I shouldn't complain, but I would say we saw a lot more rain that sunshine. The great thing was, since we couldn't hike or bike ride, we went out to lunch a lot. As a result, I got hooked on Cuban Sandwiches as well as Cuban Rice and Beans. Of course I had to try and make them myself and the recipes posted here are the culminations of my experiments. Some restaurants served the beans and rice separately in "Moros y Cristianos" (Moors and Christian) style, but my favorite was when the ingredients were combined together and perfectly spiced. I had a hard time getting the seasoning right until I finally added a teaspoon of Old Bay powder. It dawned on me that since I was eating the dish in places that served seafood, maybe the restaurant kitchens were adding it to the rice as well as their main dishes. Well, it seemed to do the trick and I finally got a nod of approval from Roy. Another couple things turned out to be key; I substituted beef broth for water and did not drain the liquid from the beans. That seemed to add flavor and gave the rice the color I was looking for. As for the sandwich - what a meal! It's a really delicious combination and a great use for leftover shredded pork and ham slices. 

Cuban Marinade Ingredients for a Two Pound Pork Shoulder:

1 orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves and tender stems
4 gloves garlic, minced or put through a press
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions for Cooking the Pork

Whirl all the marinade ingredients together in a food processor or blender until smooth. Set aside and refrigerate 1/3 cup of the marinade to use when serving. (It is especially good on a Cuban Sandwich!)  Pour the rest of the marinade over the pork. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Then, place the meat in an oven safe pan. Pour the liquid it was marinating around it. Bake covered in a preheated 324 degree oven for 4 hours. At the end of the cooking time, remove the meat from the pan and place on a serving platter. Shred the meat using two forks.   Enjoy the meat with a drizzle of the set aside 1/3 cup marinade. Use the left overs in a Cuban sandwich - see below.

Ingredients and Directions for Cuban Rice and Black Beans

1 cup uncooked white rice (I used Uncle Ben's)
1 (15 oz.) can of black beans, including the liquid
2 cups beef broth
1 large onion, skinned and diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced or put through a press
2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon oregano

Saute the diced onion in the olive oil until tender. Add all the rest of the ingredients and cook according to the rice package instructions. When done, all the liquid will be absorbed and the rice will be tender. I have also cooked this in a crock pot for 2 1/2 hours on low and the result was perfect.

To Assemble a Cuban Sandwich:

For each sandwich slice open some kind of crusty bread that is soft inside such as Cuban bread, French bread, or a Mexican bolillo shown above. Slather on side with yellow mustard. On the other side, put a healthy amount of mayonnaise. Lay some sliced ham on the mustard side. The shredded pork goes on top of the ham. Drizzle some of reserved marinade over the pork.  The cheese goes right next to the mayonnaise. Put the sandwich together and brush both sides of the bread with olive oil. Grill each side so that a nice crust appears and the cheese melts. Serve with lettuce, tomato, and dill pickles.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Hearty and Tangy Spaghetti Squash Bowl

The January weather in the United States is atrocious. Granted, the slightly chilly 60 some degrees Fahrenheit and rain in the Florida Keys or Southern California sounds pretty good compared to Chicago's forecast of  negative one and snow. Either way, a New Year's resolution to eat healthy is hard to keep when the weather is cold and what's really being craved is cozy comfort food. To answer this dilemma I came up with a quick and easy little recipe that is warm and satisfying, as well as a colorful treat for the eyes. If a bit of decadence had to be added to this dish, the Parmesan cream sauce from the post Savory Pumpkin Stuffed Pasta Shells would do the trick! Most of the people I know don't even make New Year's resolutions because they are hard to keep - or perhaps they are just doing life right anyway! But, for what it's worth, click on the for a small article I wrote about how to keep them:  "Tips for Keeping Realistic Resolutions."  In the meantime, enjoy this spaghetti squash bowl; it is yummy even if it is healthy. A side note - I think grilled shrimp or chicken would be a great addition if some protein was desired.

Ingredients for 4 servings:

1 good sized spaghetti squash
1 (5 oz.) package of arugula
1 carton of cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more to sprinkle
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground peppercorns
Some salt and pepper for sprinkling
Extra olive oil for drizzling 


To cook the spaghetti squash cut it down the middle lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Fill an oven or microwave safe pan with about 1 inch of water. Put the squash skin side up into the pan. Either bake the squash in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes or microwave it on high for 20. Squash will feel soft to the touch when it is done. Carefully remove the two halves from the pan, and with a fork "rake" the flesh to loosen the stands of spaghetti squash into a bowl. Set aside.

Roasting the tomatoes is nice, but optional. Wash and dry the tomatoes, cut them in half, and place them in an oven safe dish. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle them with a bit of salt & pepper. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until they are softening but still hold their shape. Set aside.

Wash and pat the arugula dry.  Arrange the spaghetti squash, tomatoes, arugula, and Parmesan cheese in a large serving bowl or divide and the ingredients among four individual bowls. In a small bowl whisk together oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Drizzle enough of the resulting dressing over the spaghetti squash, tomatoes, arugula, and Parmesan cheese to coat when gently tossed.

To serve, sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Lucky Little Black-eyed Pea Salsa

Here's a quick little appetizer to put out for friends or bring to a New Year's gathering. It's very similar to White Bean Salsa . Actually there is a lot of room for variations in this recipe; any veggie diced small enough could be thrown in. Likewise, various spices could be added to punch it up such as chili powder, cumin, or even curry. It is said that eating black-eyed peas on New Year's will bring good luck. I'm not sure about that, but this recipe does add a bit of fun to any festivities - and it's yummy!


2 cups cooked black-eyed peas (I use a 15 oz. can, rinsed and drained)
1/4 cup combination of colorful peppers, diced
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1 tablespoon jalapeno pepper, finely diced
1 small clove garlic, put through press or finely diced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Crackers or pita chips to serve with the salsa


In a serving bowl gently combine the black-eyed peas, peppers, onion, tomatoes, and jalapeno pepper. In a small bowl whisk together the garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the black-eyed pea mixture and carefully toss. Serve with crackers or pita chips.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Home for a Hoosier Holiday

The recipes in this post are in "Home for a Hoosier Holiday", an article in the December 2015 Edition of Center Grove Magazine

I really enjoy writing an occasional food related article for Towne Post Publications, a group of community magazines. I am especially grateful for the publishers of the Center Grove and Greenwood editions who gave me the initial chance to submit an article, and then for the past three Decembers have asked me to write one with seasonal recipes. For the first article, I took the recipes straight off the blog. The second year, I got the great idea, (not really), of making and photographing favorite family dishes from all the contributing writers. My kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off in it. Jenny was helping me, but we were going through every measuring utensil, pot, and pan as we rushed to cook things in time to photograph them before the short winter daylight was gone. I ran out of the correct ingredients and found myself substituting items such as oil for butter. Of course we saw the humor in it and laughed all day long, but we collapsed at the end.. Neither one of us wanted to cook for a long, long time! This year I wrote about the traditional Indiana recipes that are in this post. My kitchen still reached the boiling point where I wasn't keeping up with the cleanup, but it was much more manageable! I was also motivated because Roy's family was coming over to eat the results and celebrate his mom's birthday. Everyone raved about the food - especially the ham. It is scrumptious if I do say so. I hope your family will like it as much as ours did!

Sorghum Glazed Ham


 A cured ham that is large enough to yield ½ pound serving per person
1 cup sorghum (or maple syrup)
1 cup Dijon mustard
½ cup apple cider vinegar
4 minced garlic cloves
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
¼ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes


Whisk the sorghum, mustard, vinegar, garlic, coriander, rosemary, chili flakes. Set aside.  Preheat oven to 275.  Roast 15 minutes per pound. Pour glaze on during the last hour of cooking.

Apple Butter, Corn Relish, and Indiana Fried Biscuits

Apple Butter

Ingredients for a 5 cups of apple butter

 46 oz. unsweetened applesauce
 2 ½ cups light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt.


Place all ingredients into crock pot and mix well. Cook covered on high setting for 1 hour. Then set the lid ajar. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 hours until mixture is thickened. 

Corn Relish

Ingredients for three cups of Corn Relish:

1 (15 0z.) drained can whole kernel corn
¼ cup vinegar
1 cup pickle relish
¼ cup minced onion
¼ cup diced pimientos
3 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons celery salt


Mix all ingredients together in a glass casserole dish, cover with wax paper, and microwave on high for 10 minutes. 

Indiana Fried Biscuits

Ingredients for 24 biscuits: 

1 ½ cups vegetable oil
2 ½ cups flour
1 rounded tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups milk
3 tablespoons vinegar


 Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine wet ingredients and stir in. Roll out on floured surface to ½ inch thickness. Cut into biscuit rounds, then cut each in half. Heat oil to 325. Fry a batch at a time in covered skillet, three minutes per side. 

Green Bean and Sweet Potato Casseroles

Classic Green Bean Casserole from Campbell’s Soup Company

Ingredients for 12 servings:

  4 cups cooked green beans

1 can Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon soy sauce, dash pepper

1 1/3 cups canned fried onions


 Preheat oven to 350. Mix 2/3 cup of the onions and other ingredients together in 9 x 13 pan. Bake 30 minutes. Top with remaining onions and bake 5 additional minutes.

Sweet Potatoes with Miniature Marshmallows

Ingredients for 8 servings:
4 cups cooked and mashed potatoes
1/4 cup butter,
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup miniature marshmallows
1/4 teaspoon salt



Preheat oven to 350. Combine ¼ cup of the marshmallows with the other ingredients. Place in 9 x 13 pan and bake 30 minutes. Top with remaining marshmallows and bake 5 additional minutes.

Sugar Cream Pie and Persimmon Pudding

Sugar Cream Pie from Taste of Home


Prebaked single crust pastry shell
1 cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch,
2 cups 2% milk
½ cup butter cubed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat oven to 3750. In pan, mix sugar with cornstarch, then add milk and stir until smooth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook 2 minutes to thicken. Remove from heat, stir in butter and vanilla. Pour into pie crust and sprinkle top with cinnamon. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until browned.

Persimmon Pudding from Tuttle Orchards


1 pint persimmon pulp
2 cups sugar
2 beaten eggs
1 ¾ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup half and half,
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup melted butter, dash cinnamon


 Preheat oven to 3250.   Combine persimmon, sugar and eggs. Alternate adding the flour and baking powder with the half and half, buttermilk, and baking soda. Stir in butter and cinnamon. Pour in greased 9 x 13 pan and bake 1 hour.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Kane Sisters' Carrot Cake

This post should actually be called the Mueller sisters' carrot cake for its true original source. During summers between college semesters, my sister and I worked as life guards at a country club. (My brother actually was employed there too, but I was off in the real world by then.) We worked with the Mueller girls who were blonde, blue eyed, very pretty, and obsessed with dieting.  In fact, that was pretty much the topic of conversation around the pool. Except - at some point this recipe surfaced. I can't remember how, but I know it's from them. For years my sister and I brought it to pitch-ins and parties. The directions on it are very strange for a cake recipe since the first thing is to combine eggs and oil, but the result is honestly the best carrot cake I've ever had. It is the gold standard to which I compare all other carrot cakes. The cream cheese frosting is just a bit different as well; definitely not as much powdered sugar than other recipes I've seen. The result is a bit more tangy and less sweet. For a pitch-in I bake this in a 9 x 13 pan, but it also makes a great eight inch layer cake.

Ingredients for the Carrot Cake:

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups shredded carrots
1 cup raisins
1 cup undrained crushed pineapple
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts

 Ingredients for the Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions for the Carrot Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour either a 9 x 13 baking pan or two eight inch cake pans.  Beat the eggs and oil together until they are combined.

Add the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and mix well.

Stir in the carrots, raisins, coconut, pineapple, and chopped nuts. Pour into the 9 x 13 pan or evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans. Bake the 9 x 13 pan for about 50 minutes and the cake pans for about 40 minutes. When done, the edges will be coming away from the side of the pan, the cake will spring back when touched in the middle, and an inserted toothpick will come out clean. Let the pan(s) sit for 5 minutes after they are taken out of the oven. Then, run a knife along the edges between the cake and the pan. Turn the pan upside down on a wire rack and gently tap the edges and top of the pan to loosen it. Lift the pan up to release the cake. Allow the cake to completely cool before proceeding to frost it.

Directions for Making the Cream Cheese Frosting:

Beat the cream cheese and butter together with an electric mixture. Add the confectioners sugar and vanilla extract and continue to beat until all the ingredients are combined together. Ice the top of the 9 x 13 pan or divide the icing between the two eight inch layers. Place the first layer on the plate and put about a third of the icing on top, spreading it from edge to edge. Top with the second layer and heap the rest of the frosting on top, extending it to cover the sides as well as the top. If you start to get crumbs in the frosting, get a clean knife to continue. Go back if possible and gently cover any of the crumbs with excess icing. Store in refrigerator.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Blogging on the Road: Pumpkin Soup & Very Green Salad

A couple of days after Allison's visit, Roy and I took off again for a five week RV trip. We visited Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and even spent some time in South Carolina. Cooking in the motor home is a bit of a challenge; the stove runs on propane and the convection microwave runs on electricity. It's a balancing act between keeping an eye on how much propane I'm using vs electricity - especially if we are hooked up to 30 amp instead of 50 amp. However, the autumn scenery has been so beautiful that I couldn't resist making some fall type food that pics up on the colors and flavors of the season. The pumpkin soup posted here is more savory than sweet and the salad has one of my all time favorite flavor combinations: arugula, Parmesan cheese, and lemon. The best part is that besides being tasty, this recipes are nice and easy! 

Easy Cream of Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients and Directions for six cups of soup or four bowls:

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup butter
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds for garnish

Melt butter in a large sauce pan and add the diced onion and sliced green onion. Saute until tender and then add the garlic and the curry powder. Cook for 30 more seconds. Add the pumpkin and chicken broth and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Take off the stove and stir in the half-and-half. Check the temperature of the soup and gently reheat if necessary, but do not let it come to a bowl. Ladle into bowls or cups. Garnish with pumpkins seeds and a drizzle of half-and-half. 

Very Green Salad with Lemon Parmesan Dressing

Ingredients and Directions for Four Large Servings:

1 (5 oz,) package of spinach and arugula mix
8 oz. (1/2 pound) Brussels sprouts.
1 cucumber
1 large Granny Smith apple
1 lemon to make 1/4 cup juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Place the spinach and arugula mix in a large salad bowl. Rinse and drain the Brussels sprouts. Cut the ends off and slice the Brussle sprouts lengthwise into very slim slices. Leave the skin on the cucumber, cut the ends off, and then slice and quarter. Leaving the skin on, core and dice the apple. Add the Brussel sprouts, cucumber, and apple to the spinach and arugula mix. Gently toss together. In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Divide the salad between four serving plates and drizzle with the lemon Parmesan dressing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What Allison Ate (While She Was Home)

We were absolutely thrilled that Allison came home for about three weeks this fall. She had spent the year teaching English in Spain, and then traveled around Europe this summer. It was a very fun visit; we spent about a week at the lake, and then the rest of the time we were at home. The weather was great! The mornings and evenings were on the cool side, but the middle of the day was filled with liquid sunshine and temperatures in the '70s. We took full advantage of our good fortune and managed plenty of hikes and bike rides. The above photo was taken on her birthday when we visited a very hipster restaurant in town that happened to be mentioned in Bon Appetit Magazine. However, the soup and salad posted here were not what we ate there! These recipes are quick and easy. They are also meatless to accommodate Allison's recent declining meat intake! However, slices of grilled chicken would be a great addition to either one. So what two dishes did Allison like enough to be posted here? 

Roasted Tomato White Bean Soup...

And Lentil Feta Salad

I hope you enjoy this soup and salad as much as we did!

Ingredients and Directions for Four Servings Roasted Tomato White Bean Soup

2 to 3 red ripe tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 (15 oz.) can chicken broth
1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
1 small bunch of lacinato kale
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
4 oz. piece of fresh mozzarella cheese 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash, core, and cut each tomato into eight slices. Peel and cut onion into eight slices. Peel and mince garlic. Arrange the tomato, onion, and garlic in an oven safe dish. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle the oregano on top, and place in the preheated oven for an hour.
After the tomato mixture has finished baking, place in a soup pot along with the chicken broth, beans, and basil. Fold each kale leaf in half lengthwise and cut the tough middle stalk out. Roll up the kale leaves, cut them in strips, and add them to the pot. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and allow it to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Cut the mozzarella into cubes. Ladle the soup into bowls and divide the mozzarella cubes among each serving.

Ingredients and Directions for Four Servings Lentil Feta Salad


1/2 cup black beluga lentils
1/2 cup diced onion
4 cups spinach and arugula mix
2 cups cherry tomatoes
4 oz. feta cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 pepper
1/4 garlic powder


Rinse and pick over the lentils to make sure there are no twigs, etc. Place in a pan along with the diced onion and cover with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cover the pot with a lid. Allow them to cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until tender but not mushy. Remove them from the pot, drain off any extra cooking liquid, and place into another container to allow them to cool while you are putting together the rest of the salad. Wash the spinach and arugula mix and divide the greens between four serving plates. Wash the cherry tomatoes, cut them in half if they are large, and distribute them between the four plates. Ladle equal amounts of lentils over the greens and sprinkle each portion with one ounce of crumbled feta cheese. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Drizzle about three to four tablespoons of the dressing over each serving and dig in!