The first thing that the hubs moved to my little apartment when we were dating was his precious grill. There is sat on my tiny porch untouched and under a nice warm cover until he came over and fired it up. He had his stainless steal (perfectly polished) grilling tools meticulously placed in their appropriate spot and seasoning organized in the lower shelf. Seriously, it was like another truck to him. Everything about that grill screamed a big juicy steak because that is what he cooked on it; steak and chicken. Requesting that he throw some salmon on the grill with some veggies got me a glance that basically said… no, not a chance. I am happy to say; now he cooks several different things on the grill, including lots of vegetables!
Garlic. So potent it's borderline amazing because not only can it spice up a boring soup, but it can also ward off vampires. Amazing. I have yet to find a garlic fest out here in the Midwest, but back home there is a garlic festival every year. Food with garlic, art made out of garlic and even garlic ice cream. The ice cream is something I still have yet to try and it’s not really on my top ten things to do just yet. I remember walking the festivals and craft fairs and always seeing the really pretty garlic wreaths and hanging braids. My favorites were always the braids and wreaths that had other pretty herbs woven into the garlic. We always had one hanging on the door in the kitchen for two reasons; a healthy welcome to visitors and easy access when cooking.
Roasting garlic gives the garlic such a nice, earthy taste and takes out that potent garlic taste that leaves it’s trace for hours. It turns a nice brown color and is soft enough to smash into butter for amazing garlic butter. Roasted garlic freezes really well – but be careful. Preserving in oil can lead to botulism and that is really dangerous. It is literally as easy as 1, 2, 3 and makes the house smell absolutely amazing while it is roasting.
Corn. Without going into an entire rant about knowing where your food comes from, and how it was grown, let me just give you a word of advice: know where your food comes from, who grew it and support local farmers. Living in the Midwest has opened my eyes to several things that aren’t common, or even legal for that matter back home. We research the farms where we buy produce, we ask questions and we do our best to buy from farms that only sell what they grow and don’t import to appease the masses. We recently just found a gem just 4 miles away from us… who knew? They even grow their own apples, so saucing season here I come!
I find it amusing that there are so many solutions and wonder rinses out on the shelves to clean produce. Let’s face it; in this day and age, what is on the outside of the produce is not the main concern. Genetically modified produce cannot be rinsed clean; therefore, these expensive vegetables baths are useless… and expensive!
I’m not going to lecture and start talking about what you should ban and what you should eat. Nope. But I will tell you this: local produce grown for flavor and not travel tastes a millions times better. The tomatoes are wicked sweet, the radishes are a little crisper and the corn is, well… amazing. It is allowed to grow to its fullest potential as it should on the vine as opposed to on a truck that still needs to travel 1000 plus miles.
Asparagus is a vegetable that you either love or you hate. I hated it for the longest time until I went to Las Vegas and had cream of asparagus soup from the Grande Lux in the Venetian, Las Vegas. At first I was a bit skeptical but then I couldn’t stop eating it (not even joking, 3 nights in a row!). I would like to say it’s all in how you cook it and if the seasonings are on the mark and other grown-up things like that, but I can’t. Quite frankly my trick was to cut the bottom half off and enjoy the tender top parts of the asparagus. It is what it is, and the hubs will sometimes eat it too if he grills it for me.
On another note, I am not a fan of yogurt to eat it out of a bowl, but man is that stuff good to cook with or make decadent sauces healthy again. It’s even better when you make a sauce with plain Greek yogurt, lemon and dill, much like some people do for salmon. This is super quick and easy, and you don’t need to discard the asparagus bottoms because you can keep them for that decedent cream of asparagus soup. I’m telling you that stuff is wicked delicious!
Soda was reserved for the stomach flu and special occasions like your birthday in our house while we were growing up. I’m glad for this now, but, man, was I ever jealous of the soda-drinking households! The only soda we had in the house was ginger ale for stomach bugs and for the occasional ‘cranberry spritz’ drink concocted of… you guessed it, cranberry juice and a splash of ginger ale. I don’t have the stomach for soda; it’s far too sweet for me, but if I do go for a soda, it is ginger ale. News flash! Ginger ale is NOT served where I am located in the Midwest! What!? That means, no Crown and Ginger at the bowling alley, no Shirley Temple’s and I can’t even stop at a convenience store and get a small bottle and most recently, the huge gas station that even plays music, doesn’t carry ANY ginger ale. Sigh. I bet this is easily made with a Soda Stream as well, but I don't have one of those, so we will make it happen one way or another!
It still sometimes catches me off-guard when I hear something here in the Midwest that I would never hear back home in New England. I’m sure my incisive use of ‘wicked’ throws many people off, but we are outnumbered out here. WE are the people with the accent, and until I moved out here I had never been told I had an accent. Weird!
The first time we were definitely thrown off was with the word ‘bag’. The cashier in the store asked us if we would like a bag but pronounced it B-aa-ge, as in ‘anxious’ instead of ‘apple’. We stood there in silence looking at each other like, what did she just call me?
We can finally say spring is on its way because the last few days of been wicked nice. While the Midwest doesn’t get the ‘5th’ season like New England, it is still quite a sloppy mess with puddles of water and such. What am I saying? Puddles of water… have I gone wimpy? For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, the 5th season back home is called mud season. And this isn’t just a little mud on the highway; this is slow moving mud that has been created from the great mountain thaw and has been known to move cars off the side of the road. It is mud that consumes you and the ones you love.
Applesauce. I’m not talking about the store-bought applesauce that comes in the nifty little serving sizes and has more waste than sauce. I’m talking about the homemade golden sauce made from local sweet, crisp apples that have been perfecting in the sunlight for months. That is applesauce people. That is the kind of applesauce I grew up on, and that is the applesauce that I continue to eat daily. Yes, daily! Once you taste homemade applesauce, you will never go back to just picking up a jar in the grocery store. I promise. The best part is how easy it is to preserve applesauce!
We have potluck lunches at work on a regular basis and sometimes it’s difficult to think of something new to bring. It’s more of a competition for me which means the food I bring needs to appeal to the masses, be different but not too different and NEVER labeled as healthy, vegan or vegetarian. Tough crowd, I know. I looked around Pinterest a bit and found a few good ideas, and then I came across this cute little deviled potato that looked just like a deviled egg. Sold! But I needed to make a bunch of tweaks, mostly because of the lack of needed ingredients, but also to make sure that it would appeal to even the most skeptical of eaters.
I remember the first time I tried Miso soup in a small sushi shop in Manchester, Vermont. I didn’t order the soup; by tradition they serve it before every meal in their restaurant. I was still new to tofu at that point, and I preferred my soups on the heartier side with less broth. My first spoonful was… absolutely divine. It had a nice hint of a salty taste that made you feel like you were right next to the sea and the tofu soaked that all up fairly quickly. The green onions added just enough crunch to give it texture and kelp, or as I’m quickly learning; Wakame, they used gave it a nice earthy taste.
Everybody knows the dinnertime woes: someone will love it while the other person can’t even stand the smell of it. Welcome to my homestead, where the hubs is a meat and potato guy, and I am a veggie lover. Anytime I cook broccoli or cauliflower, he tends to leave the house or walk around with his shirt over his nose. So, instead of constantly trying to make him like what I like, I adapted. I have this great method of cooking now that consists of one main thing that we will both eat and then we get our own sides. Or, sometimes when he wants a pork chop, that main thing we both eat will be corn on the cob. We roll with the punches in our house if you haven’t noticed.
This recipe, which is actually two-in-one, was created due to me loving spinach and him loving pepperoni. Even though it is technically two recipes, it doesn’t take any longer to make these little morsels of cheesy goodness, and in the end, everyone is happy with their snack.
I love chowder, cream of broccoli soup and anything-cheesy soup, but I always feel so guilty when I eat them. At some point, I discovered pureeing boiled cauliflower and using it as a broth played a delectable healthy twin to our evil butter and cheese bases. The first recipe I came up with still called for cheddar, milk and butter… just, not nearly as much as the original creamy recipes, and it still tasted great! As I tried more and more recipes, I had a thought to take all dairy completely out. Yikes! Don’t worry - it turned out delicious!
I discovered a recipe by Oh She Glows for a dairy free whipped cream a few months back, and absolutely fell in love. Before finding this recipe, I had never used coconut milk for… well, anything. Of course, this meant that I switched up my game, and I now always keep a can upside-down in my fridge and an extra can in my pantry. Another new love of mine is coconut oil, something I have been using for a few years now. And so… Cream of Cauliflower Coconut Soup was created in my kitchen.
Widow’s Weekend: something that sounds so dismal and sad, but in reality a weekend that so many people look forward to in the fall. Those left behind celebrate with two-for-one margaritas, live bands and catching up with old friends. Plans are made for this weekend months in advance and the entire town celebrates with you.
Don’t stop reading! Let me explain this a little better for you. Widow’s weekend is what we call the first weekend of rifle season. The tradition of the hunter leaving for a weekend of camp, and the one’s left behind partying like it’s 1999. This is actually one thing that I have seen in the Midwest as well, and it’s even called the same name! So what does that mean for me? No slacking for me: it’s time to step it up and show the boys of the Midwest how New England lady sends her lovey to camp for the long weekend. Ready for a bit of information that has been giving generations and is the best kept secret? Send really good hearty homemade food.
If I were to describe my eating habits, I would never say I’m picky. I love my veggies, I’m willing to try anything at least once and I understand tastes change, so I’m willing to try things again. However, I have heard more than once, twice 50 times, that I am a picky eater. Ok, so I love spinach, but I prefer it cooked, but I hate cooked mushrooms but will snitch raw ones. It’s not that weird! I will eat salmon, but only if there is dill and lemon on it, and please don’t fry my seafood… I need to see what I’m eating. Chicken needs to be prepared in my grandmother’s house, my mother’s house or my own house. Period. I’m wicked weird about chicken; that I will own up to willingly. Mashed potatoes must be from actual potatoes (I can’t believe I actually have to write that) and they can’t be completely pureed. I love oatmeal, but I like it so thick you can hold the bowl upside down and it stays in place. Yes, this one grosses a lot of people out, but sloppy oatmeal grosses me out… so, we’re even. I’m sure you get the point.
We hosted a poker game every Saturday night back home and it was such a blast. It went on for 3 years straight until we moved out to the Midwest. At the beginning a different couple would host the game at their house and everyone would bring something to share, but as the game players changed and time went on, it ended up being at our house every week. No complaints here, but as the players changed so did the food. Single guys tend to bring chips and dip… and that is pretty much all she wrote. As we started getting more and more single guys playing, our stock in pre-made dips and Ruffles began to pile up in our pantry. So, I began making snacks for the game and switching it up every week.
Turkey roll-ups were a hit as were the cranberry cocktail meatballs, dirty pigs in a blanket and apple pie baked dumplings. But when I made homemade nachos, they flocked to the kitchen like flies on a cheeseburger.
I absolutely love cooking with a crock-pot, especially now that the weather is cooler. Yes, it is for the most part effortless, but there is another reason I love the crock-pot. I love to walk into the house and be engulfed in aromas of food that's been cooking all day. Sometimes I will put something in the crock-pot and go do some chores outside just so I can walk back in and see if it smells good yet. It’s like I have my very own chef that has been working so hard on dinner all day and has it ready at the exact time that I’m hungry and ready to eat. You get the point.
I also love crock-pots because you really can’t mess up… for the most part. Yes, I have overcooked things, but they were fixable, and when you slap that “caramelized coating” description on, it goes from burnt to fancy gourmet in less than 15 seconds.
When I was younger I was a noodles and butter kid. No red sauce, spaghetti sauce or marinara. But I loved the sauce my grandmother made special for stuffed peppers, and still love it. I’m pretty weird when it comes to tomatoes; I love them and eat them every day but they have to be raw. I love tomato sandwiches made with fresh slicing tomatoes from the garden, cherry tomatoes that are usually popped in my mouth from the vine before making it inside and of course caprese salad. Stewed tomatoes or even chunky tomato sauces are not my favorite.
Since moving from New England, it has come to my attention pretty quickly that I can’t just snag a few jars of homemade spaghetti sauce from my mom’s house. That means, I need to make my own sauce and can it successfully. The hubs is a very meat and potatoes guy, and as much as I try, he is not a vegetable guy. I’m constantly trying to integrate veggies into recipes very subtly, but he always sniffs them out. The one thing I can get away with putting tons of garlic, onions and peppers in is homemade red sauce, as long it is pureed so smooth he can’t tell what is in the sauce.